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Too pretty for construction: Study shows beauty hinders women’s chances in masculine jobs

10 January 2020 | By GCR Staff | 1 Comment

Although studies show that, in general, attractive men and women enjoy better job prospects and higher incomes than their less attractive peers, new research indicates that the reverse is true when it comes to women applying for masculine jobs such as in construction.

The research involved inserting pretty “decoys” among applicants to the job of construction manager, plumber and others, with the results confirming researchers’ hypothesis that attractiveness worked against women who were nevertheless qualified for the job.

It proved the “beauty-is-beastly” effect, in the words of Stefanie Johnson, associate professor at Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado, Boulder, who conducted the research with Elsa Chan, from City University of Hong Kong.

To counter the effect, they recommend that recruiters stay aware of this aspect of gender bias when making selection decisions, and consider training hirers to tackle their bias in the search for talent.

Johnson and Chan employed a “decoy applicant” to test their hypotheses in several studies, manipulating the number of attractive candidates applying for a masculine job.

Their results confirmed that when a third unattractive decoy was in the mix, the beauty-is-beastly effect occurred – in other words the more beautiful individual was less likely to be hired.

Conversely, when a third attractive decoy candidate was included, bias against a candidate’s beauty receded.

Unexpectedly, Johnson and Chan found that even in gender-neutral jobs, the beauty-is-beastly effect also occurred when no attractive decoy candidate was added to the hiring pool.

“Our studies showed that attractive decoys mitigated beauty is beastly effects regardless of the relative qualifications of the job candidate,” they concluded, adding: “Most importantly, the findings create an inequality for women, who may be judged negatively for their appearance regardless of what that appearance is.”

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