Strathclyde University asked 120 participants to rate eight pictures of men and women for their suitability for customer-facing roles such as sales assistant and waiter, and non-customer facing roles, including stock assistants. The candidates were equally qualified but were assessed via photographs, in which some faces reflected a ‘normal’ weight, while others a subtle ‘heavier’ weight.
Crucially, they found both men and women will find an issue in a weight-conscious labour market, but women face far more discrimination than men. Women with a healthy BMI range experienced a significantly negative impact on their likelihood of being hired when a small amount of additional weight was added to their photo. They also experienced a greater wage bias than men who were overtly overweight.
These biases more noticeable in hiring for customer-facing roles, and the research suggests many organisations treat a slim appearance as part of their ‘brand’. But weight discrimination can be found in many aspects of working life. We reported on research published earlier this year by the University of Exeter which found women who are heavier and men who are shorter than the national average, earn around £1,500 a year less than their peers.