When I was a little girl, I knew men made more money than women and almost always held higher positions too. It was a fact of life. In my neighborhood, fathers were the main breadwinners while mothers either stayed home or filled the financial gaps with part-time or temporary jobs. Full-time female workers were few and far between. Even rarer was the woman who managed to land a management position. I can count on one hand the females I knew with any legitimate professional power and influence. I can’t even imagine how small those numbers were for minority women at that time.
As I grew, I noticed a distinct change in the societal norm. If you’re older than thirty-five, you probably experienced the same dramatic shift. Moms either needed to or wanted to work. And with that, ladies began to find role models. Whether it was Geraldine Ferraro, the first female vice presidential candidate representing a major American political party or famous business icons like Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart, girls finally had multiple women to emulate. In turn, we began to proclaim, “if she can do it, I can do it.” Anything was possible.
It may seem obvious to you then that boosting employee morale is as easy as placing more women and minorities into influential positions. Well, you’re not alone. 2020 Women on Boards is a national campaign to increase the percentage of females on U.S. boards to 20% or more by the year 2020. Malli Gero, co-founder and president says, “research shows that gender diversity is good business and results in higher sales, greater corporate morale, and better return on investment for stakeholders.” Those are three seemingly compelling reasons for companies to hurry up and get with the program.
Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Sadly, diversity in the boardroom and upper management remains at what you might call a deplorable level. Globally, women hold between fifteen and eighteen percent of the available director positions, depending on which study or survey you read. This is partly because turnover on boards is low. The good news is that the numbers have been growing steadily, if not quickly, over the last decade.
Recent pressures from activists and investors have prompted boards to increase their number of minorities and females. The alternative is to face backlash and criticism from the media and other powerful groups if these changes are not made. Perhaps you’ve heard of organizations like the Forte Foundation, the Thirty Percent Coalition, and the Professional Diversity Network that are not only shining a much-needed light on this topic but providing resources to underrepresented professionals in an attempt to speed up the process of parity.
A Reason to Smile
Minorities and women are taking notice of the recent changes in corporate demographics. Research shows that role models have a positive effect on stigmatized and under-represented populations. Having someone to look up to in a company setting increases motivations, the number of goals set, and interest in advancement by those in lower positions. You might not be surprised by any of this, but it’s nice to have evidence for the obvious, right?
Additionally, businesses with relatively high percentages of female managers and board members tend to take on issues important to stigmatized groups. Corporate programs that spotlight and address equal pay, flexible work schedules, mentorship, and charitable contributions are increasingly popular. As a result, the future is looking a little brighter for us and will probably continue to do so.
Career expectations for women have certainly changed and grown over the past thirty years. Gone are the days when we put absolute limits on our professional potential. Big business is likely to continue boosting employee morale with improved representation of marginalized groups in positions of power. Do you think we are headed in the right direction? What other actions should corporate America take to ensure equality? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
Nearly everyone understands by the time they’re adolescents that appearances matter. You see beauty and sexuality emphasized consistently in ads, movies, television shows, and social media. Dating services portray people on their sites as attractive and eager to meet you. Anti-aging products are hocked to women by twenty-something-year-old models with no spots or wrinkles. Viagra ads suggest to men if they take the pill they’ll be able to bed a gorgeous woman, just like the one in the commercial. We’re barraged with messages that reinforce the notion looks trump substance.
The pressure to be attractive extends to your professional life as well. But, landing a job you’re qualified for or getting the promotion you’ve earned shouldn’t depend on the size of your waistline or the prominence of your nose. After all, you don’t comb your hair with a fork or require a formal introduction to dental floss! However, growing evidence supports the theory that looks play a significant role in your career development and income. Therefore, it’s imperative to learn why a physical attractiveness stereotype crushes opportunities for most people.
Who’s The Fairest Of Them All?
Let’s say you’re in the market for a new job. You get your resume reviewed and edited by a professional and eagerly apply for several positions. This, along with a snazzy cover letter ought to secure you a few interviews. Beauty isn’t a consideration at this point, right? Alas, most companies have been using ‘social screening’ for years to evaluate applicants. It’s a process where hiring managers use your social media accounts to determine if you’re a viable candidate. And unless you have picture-free profiles, your appearance is part of the package. According to a recent poll conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder, sixty percent of employers surveyed used social networking platforms for hiring purposes. Maybe this is old news to you. No biggie.
Well, there is an abundance of research that emphasize the advantages of being good looking. In a field experiment conducted by the University of Buenos Aires, researchers found that resumes submitted with photos of attractive applicants were 36 percent more likely to be given a callback. If that’s not discouraging enough, studies by economist Daniel S. Hamermesh found that beautiful people are often offered higher salaries. In fact, Hamermesh wrote a fascinating, yet disturbing book on the topic, Beauty Pays. In it, he explains how companies can justify and afford to pay a premium for attractive employees.
Eyes Without A Face
Obviously, hiring based on a person’s looks is wrong. The practice squanders human resources and reinforces stereotypes. We can only wonder how often brilliant applicants are passed over for eye-catching mediocrity. You also have to wonder how it affects office morale. How can we reduce this type of discrimination?
Both businesses and governments have shown increasing interest in implementing blind or anonymous processes to review applicants. This means more companies are attempting to reduce cues for conscious or unconscious bias in hopes of hiring more women and minorities. It stands to reason this approach will also benefit older and less attractive prospects as well. Current trends and strategies used include:
Omitting name, gender, and photos from resumes
Offering online questionnaires
Conducting telephone interviews
Positioning a candidate behind a screen during an interview
Eliminating social screening from the hiring process
Perhaps these tactics bring more diversity to the workforce and result in better positions and more money to those who have previously been discriminated against based on their looks. However, instituting these procedures is purely voluntary on behalf of companies. There are currently no laws mandating blind or anonymous hiring practices in the United States. Also, businesses may be reluctant to change existing systems based on the added expense. As a result, progress in the area is bound to be slow.
It’s easy to see why a physical attractiveness stereotype crushes opportunities for job seekers. Pretty people continue to have the upper hand for now. Perhaps in time, the statistics will change. In the meantime, we’ll have to continue keeping up appearances to receive the highest pay possible. Just like Mom always said, “Life isn’t fair.”
What are your thoughts? Should companies be legally obligated to use blind interviewing to reduce stereotyping and increase fairness in hiring practices? Share your experiences.