Women’s Waistlines Affect Bottom Lines

Obese women suffer discrimination in job applications and starting salaries

(RxWiki News) Being overweight might be hurting more than your health. If you're a woman, it could be hurting your job prospects and your salary opportunities as well.

A new study has found that women who are obese are more likely to be discriminated against when applying for jobs compared to women who are not overweight.

Obese women also tend to be offered lower starting salaries than their normal-weight colleagues.

"Talk to your doctor about safely losing weight."

Lead author Kerry O'Brien, a psychologist in the Behavioral Studies department at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues represented their study as one about a different investigation when conducting the study so that the participants were not biased.

They gave 102 people a stack of resumes that included a small photo of the applicant attached to it.

The participants were to rate the applicants in terms of how suitable they seemed for a managerial position, what their starting salary should be and how likely it was that the participant would hire the woman.

The photos were of women who had undergone bariatric surgery for obesity. The participants either saw a photo of the women pre-surgery, with a body mass index ranging from 38 to 41, or after surgery, with a BMI of 22 to 24.

The participants were also given assessments to measure their "anti-fat prejudice," how authoritarian a person they were and how they evaluated their own bodies.

"We found that strong obesity discrimination was displayed across all job selection criteria, such as starting salary, leadership potential and likelihood of selecting an obese candidate for the job," the researchers wrote.

Participants were more likely to discriminate against an obese female candidate if they scored high on the anti-fat prejudice assessment, if they have a more authoritarian personality, if they rated their own physical attractiveness as higher and if they rated physical appearance as being important.

"One interpretation of this finding might be that we feel better about our own bodies if we compare ourselves and discriminate against 'fat' people, but we need to test this experimentally," said O'Brien.

The study appears in the International Journal of Obesity. Information regarding funding was not available, but the authors declared no financial conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
May 10, 2012