We’ve now got a pretty good picture of what it means to be attractive or unattractive in the corporate world. It can be unfair, discriminating (although not legally so because who can make a lawsuit based on the claim: He thinks I’m ugly!), biased and more – but as with any saga, there are two sides to every story.
Since the last two thirds of this segment have been about how being unattractive and/or short in stature may have an ugly effect of lower salaries or opportunities, we’ll turn it around and see how being attractive can also be misconstrued within the workplace.
It’s what’s known as the beauty premium. Just to give you a little background on how this concept was created, Dr. Daniel Hamermesh and Jeff Biddle conducted a study in 1994 which indicated that workers of above-average beauty earn more than workers with below average looks.[i] Dr. Hamermesh took this data one step further stating that the ‘beauty premium’ exists in all industries, even those where beauty would not seem to matter.[ii]
This caused an uproar because what company wants to admit that they do, in fact, make a very quiet but very biased, not to mention, shallow decision when hiring a person? And as we all know, once any controversial study is completed, another must follow to negate such discriminatory data.
The logic coin gets tossed up in the air and the question then becomes: Is the beauty premium all it’s cracked up to be?
The answer is absolutely yes…that is, initially. As with anything that sounds too good to be true, this is certainly one of those instances. While beauty gets you in the door and offered a higher salary, it’s often quite a different story after the first couple of months.
An experiment completed by Markus Mobius of the Harvard economics department and Tanya Rosenblat of Wesleyan University where pretty people were asked to perform certain tasks, they found that employers overestimated the productivity of beautiful people. The economists estimated that about 15 percent to 20 percent of the beauty premium is a result of the self-confidence effect, while oral and visual communication each contributes about 40 percent.[iii]
According to a survey done by Newsweek, looks matter in every aspect of the workplace and they matter even more for women[iv] indicating that beauty can be a double-edged sword that can either make your career come to a halt or propel it forward.
There was a recent lawsuit filed against Citigroup (you’ve probably heard about it) by a woman who stated she was fired solely because her bosses thought she was too hot.[v] Awww, she must have it so rough, right?
While chances are this particular woman is probably milking publicity for fame (please note her photo shoot to back up her horrifying experience), the honest truth is when a woman is considered beautiful in the workplace, many times she loses credibility the higher up the corporate ladder she climbs. Then comes the famous, ‘Oh, she only got there because of her looks’ snub that’s heard ‘round the entire office.
So what’s a pretty girl to do?
The answer most professionals give is simply to dress more conservatively, which is just common sense but do you want to know the real trick? It’s adding a pearl necklace!
It may sound a little strange that an oyster can spit out one little pearl that can forever change your destiny. That may sound a bit dramatic; however, this tiny little accessory can make all the difference in a female’s professional appearance. Pearls make such a strong impression in the corporate environment because they’re timeless, old-fashioned but forever trendy, sentimental pieces that for some reason or the other, keeps a woman looking credible and trustworthy. Who knows the exact reason for this? Maybe it’s just the simple fact that because our mothers wore it, their mothers wore it and their mothers did, it carries a safe and comforting feeling.
To flawlessly pull off this look in a way that’s office savvy and at the same time, fashionable, the idea is to wear one set of pearls at a time. If you’re going to wear pearl earrings, then forego the necklace and bracelet. Maybe you’re a bracelet kind of person in which case, drop the earrings and necklace – so on and so forth. If opting for the necklace, remember to keep it collarbone level to draw attention upwards!
Remember that pearls are not just an accessory; they’re a means to bring focus to the professional side of you and trust me, pearls never let a girl down!