Is Your Weight Impacting Your Career?

October 22, 2018

So you're currently interviewing for a job or promotion. The phone interview (or interviews) went great and so they finally schedule an in-person meeting as part of their selection process. You arrive on-time and ready to knock their socks off, only to find that your in-person interview is being abruptly cut short. A few days later, you hear back with the, "thank you for interviewing but we have gone a different direction" email. You think to yourself, "What happened? Everything was going great until that in-person meeting?"

 

The reality is, weight-based discrimination in the workforce is an undeniable presence in career advancement. According to Allison Van Dusen of Forbes, "While many victims of the bias have suspected their appearance has been hurting their careers, two new studies analyzing decades' worth of research show just how pervasive the problem is." In her article, are results from multiple studies by university professors who compile data on this subject matter. Here are a few of the highlights:

 

- Weight-based discrimination consistently affects every aspect of employment, from hiring to firing, promotions, pay allocation, career counseling and discipline (Mark Roehling, professor of human resources management at Michigan State University)

- The bias appears to be most prominent during the hiring process, when an employer knows a potential employee the least and therefore is most likely to be influenced by stereotypes - such as fat people are lazy (Cort Rudolph, a Wayne State University researcher)

- The Health Economics journal reported that obesity could lower a woman's annual earnings by as much as 6.2% and a man's by as much as 2.3% (Charles Baum, Middle Tennessee State University)

 

The statistics are ongoing and date back several decades. To ignore the proof that weight-based discrimination exists is simply ignoring a REAL problem in today's workplace.

 

The difficult pill to swallow is that employers are also being supported by statistical data in their weight-based discrimination. Here are some more highlights to add to your perspective:

 

- Obese employees cost U.S. private companies an estimated $45 billion annually in medical expenditures and work loss (The Conference Board, a nonprofit business membership and research organization)

- Between 1997 and 2004, obese workers filed twice the number of workers' compensation claims, had seven times the medical costs and lost 13 times the days of work from work injury or illness compared with other employees (Duke University Medical Center)

- The average medical-claims costs per 100 employees amounted to $51,019 for the obese, compared with $7,503 for the non-obese (Archives of Internal Medicine)

 

Yes, companies are looking out for their bottom line and so, decisions are made even at the risk of being discriminatory. What the statistical data DOESN'T capture, is just how qualified these candidates are. I must say, I read quite a few articles when researching this subject matter and a few of them actually upset me quite a bit! Bloggers and article contributors actually published statements like...

 

"Present yourself as a professional to deter the conversation away from your weight."

 

"For a person who is a little bit overweight it's really important to have good grooming."

 

"Choose clothes that are slimming and fashionable and stay away from those that may be frumpy or outdated."

 

"Apply at firms where they value real people over beautiful people."

 

BARF! I cannot believe I actually read these statements. The reason I have such a hard time accepting these statements in good faith is because the same could be said if you're a woman, a minority, or a person of a certain age! Shouldn't we always present ourselves as professional? Shouldn't we always practice good grooming? Choosing appropriate clothing for the workplace is good advice no matter what size you are? Don't even get me started on the "don't work at a place where they value beauty".....*pulling my hair out*.

 

The fact is this. Being overweight, a woman, a minority or of a certain age doesn't effect your VALUE as a person. Your talents and abilities aren't better or worse because of the number on the scale. But, I will also tell you some very real truth -- we live in a visual world, where society has free range to judge people using stereotypes. So as much as I can't stand this to be a reality, the statistics I just mentioned above shows that it unfortunately...is.

 

Join me in my private FB group, Dare to Be Great, where I will provide insight and training and how you can address and combat this issue in your experience. Go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/daringarmy/?ref=bookmarks, answer the 3 questions and you're in.

 

Whether you're the potential employee, or the hiring manager - you must know how to effectively confront this issue and influence change. As it relates to the Impostor Syndrome, this issue could be most experienced for The Perfectionist or the Superhuman. I will explain why that is, on Thursday night at 7pm PST in our FB group. See you there.

 

Cheers to your success (no matter what your size),

Michelle

 

 

 

 

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