In a new research study titled, “Gender and the returns to attractiveness,” two researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of California at Irvine used data from a national study of over 14,000 people to study the relationship between attractiveness and income. While past studies have shown that attractive men and women earn about 20% more than their unattractive counterparts, attractive women still earn less than attractive men. And unattractive people earn less than both of them. These researchers wanted to explore if attractiveness matters more for men or women and also the role that grooming plays in the attractiveness-income relationship.
They had interviewers rate the individuals’ level of physical attractiveness (unattractive, average, attractive, very attractive) and grooming (poorly groomed, average grooming, well-groomed, very well-groomed), while also taking into consideration control factors such as race, education, region, and age. And the researchers found that attractiveness is no more or less important for women than for men. But, they found a big difference in gender-related salaries when it came to grooming practices.
They found that the grooming practices employed by women—wearing makeup, styling one’s hair and clothes, orthodontia, etc.—accounted for nearly all of the salary differences for women of varying natural attractiveness. Less attractive but well-groomed women earned significantly more than attractive or very attractive women who weren’t well-groomed. The study’s main takeaway: “being attractive is not enough; it is doing attractiveness…that is rewarded in the labor market. While good grooming is beneficial for men, it is imperative for women, and allows women to access labor market rewards regardless of how physically attractive they are rated.”
My takeaway? Let’s try to move past the “But this isn’t fair!” argument and go with the idea that this is the reality. The good news is that, for all of us who weren’t born beautiful, we can make the most of what we’ve got and take control of how we’re perceived—and paid.
Contact The Edge Executive Coaching & Training for assistance in image and executive presence.
© Jill Bremer 2016