Study Finds Going Up a Size Can Hurt Your Job Chances – Especially if You’re a Woman

If you’re in the market for a new job, you may want to spend as much time at the gym as you do on LinkedIn.

At least, that’s what the results of a new study would suggest.

And this is especially the case if you’re a woman (don’t shoot the messenger).

A new study from the journal Plos One found that weight gain can hinder a job seeker’s employment chances — especially a woman’s (sigh).

There’s been no shortage of previous research that suggests that overweight applicants face discrimination in job interviews. But the study authors – a team of Scottish and Canadian researchers – wanted to see if going up just one size would induce similar prejudice.


So, back in 2013, they instructed a group of 60 men and 60 women to imagine themselves as company recruiters looking at photos of prospective hires.

The photos showed four men and four women at a variety of digitally enhanced weights. All were white (the authors wanted to test for response to size so they stuck to one race) and expressionless. Each face reflected what healthcare professionals would consider healthy body weights.

Each prospective candidate was armed with an identical resume to everybody else.

The recruiters were given a questionnaire that asked how likely they would be to hire each candidate based on their gut reactions. They were asked to rate each on a scale of 1 (extremely unlikely) to 7 (extremely likely) for both customer-facing roles or no contact positions.

And the “recruiters” were quick to judge.


To both genders, thinner faces were viewed as more hirable than the heavier ones, especially if the role involved customer interaction.

The “original” versions received an average score of 4.84, while the modified, heavier shots got 4.61 (keep in mind that these were not major changes in weight). The disadvantage was disproportionately stronger for larger women than it was for larger men. Respondents rated them 0.66 lower on average, compared to the 0.26 lower for men.

“These results affirm that even a marginal increase in weight appears to have a negative impact on the hirability ratings of female job applicants,” the authors wrote. “For women, it seems, even seemingly minute changes to the shape, size and weight of the body are important.”

Great news, right? (cue eye roll) Ironically, of course, this news is coming out at the same time that the ever-growing body positivity movement continues to pick up steam.

Co-author Dennis Nickson reaffirms what we all know, saying that women tend to be judged more critically for their appearance because of unfair societal expectations.

Studies have shown that thin women who wear makeup are viewed as more competent in the workplace and even take home higher earnings than their heavier counterparts who forgo makeup. A recent study even revealed the reasoning who so many powerful female CEOs are blonde (hint: it actually plays into the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype).

As highlighted through countless studies, the sad reality continues that – regardless of appearance – men are simply viewed as more inherently skilled. The respondents in the 2013 study rated male faces, on average, a full point more employable than the female ones.


A man’s appearance still matters when it comes to assessing his employability – but not as much as it does for a woman.

Nickson says that people still struggle to understand that one’s body reveals nothing about their ability to do most jobs and that judging someone because of body weight could mean the loss of a talented and productive worker. He suggests including weight in diversity training.

In the meantime, us ladies need to keep fighting the good fight and keep calling out sexist employers on their B.S.

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