weight discrimination in the workplace

Does your weight impact your career? Is there such a thing as ‘weight discrimination’?

A question many of us ask ourselves. No matter if overweight or underweight, no matter if female or male: “Does my weight matter for my career success at work?”

Evidence suggests that society places a double standard on the perception of excess weight on men and women. While obesity for anyone is not a good thing, obese men are given a “pass” more often than women. This has been seen in the workplace as prejudice against women who are overweight, while overweight men continue to be successful. The same study found that “between 45 percent and 61 percent of top male CEOs are overweight, with a BMI between 25 and 29,” but “only five percent to 22 percent of top female CEOs are overweight.” The researchers, Mark Roehling, Michigan State University professor, and Patricia Roehling, professor at Hope College in Holland Michigan, stated, “This reflects a greater tolerance and possibly even a preference for a larger size among men but a smaller size among women.”

Yes, weight discrimination exists in the workplace. As a society, physical appearance continues to play a role in workplace success, both in pay and promotions. Often men who are larger in stature are seen as powerful and prominent in the workplace. This unfortunate double standard does not apply to women as women who are overweight are often seen as unsuccessful and unmotivated. These figures are even more shocking, knowing that the rate of obesity in the United States is higher in women than in men. Therefore, there are more obese women in the US. However, they are less likely to climb the ladder professionally due to a double standard placed on women in the workplace.

First Impressions Reminder:

There are a number of inequalities in the workplace today. Weight discrimination is an even bigger reality for those professionals who identify as women. Women are often discriminated against for their bodies and judged based on their physical appearances. There are many obstacles for working women. Why let your physical appearance be another? Regardless of your size or build, by taking care of your body and dressing appropriately for your shape, you can gain more respect in the workplace.

It is not about going on an intense diet or hiring a personal trainer. If you are a woman in business and feel as though your personal appearance is holding you back, there are many ways you can get ahead by removing any discrimination based on your appearance. Be sure you are dressing for your body type and wearing clothing that flatters your figure. If you are naturally a heavier set person, don’t worry! That does not mean you will not excel in your business or make it to the top; however, it is something to be cognoscente of.  Just by wearing clothing that fits and focusing on creating vertical lines in your wardrobe, you will be giving the illusion of length. Even just wearing well-fitting garments makes a considerable difference to flatter your body type.

And finally, since we are aware of this double standard in the workplace, we can challenge it and ensure we are working to change the dynamic of gender inequality at work. Being aware of any workplace imbalances it makes it easier for you to ensure your qualities are not used against you or seen as a negative trait when it comes to discussions around promotions and pay raises.

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