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Today I was watching a Dutch presentation of VU professor Kilian Wawoe about all things affecting your salary. When thinking about this, chances are that factors like age, experience and education come to mind. Yes, also for me. All the more reason I was impressed when this professor explained that scientific studies revealed that – among other things – your weight affects your salary. How does this work exactly? I looked up this study…
Researchers Timothy Judge (University of Florida) and Daniel Cable (London Business School) studied how much people’s weight affects the level of the salary they receive. According to the report – called When It Comes to Pay, Do the Thin Win? The Effect of Weight on Pay for Men and Women – weight is quite a strong factor. The study reveals that skinnier-than-average men have a lower salary than when they would have a more average weight. A skinny man earns on average 8,000 dollars less than colleagues with a larger size. For women, it is the other way around. Skinny women earn on average 16,000 dollars more than female colleagues who are heavier.
According to the researchers, employers are not aware of this. The way one rates another person depends on all kinds of factors that unknowingly play a role. In this case, the media is one of those factors. In the media, successful men are often depicted as big and rather heavier than thinner. While successful women are usually portrayed as slim or thin.
Traci Mann, professor in psychology and specialized in health and food at the University of Minnesota, understands this outcome. She states that it is so ingrained in our brains that successful women are thin, it’s not easy to escape that stereotype. The researchers confirm this as well.
Thin is good
When I look at the explanations the researchers give, I can understand them. As a fuller-figured woman with a history in fashion, I have noticed how strong the pressure can be to lose weight. The pressure is heavy, very heavy.
It often notice how enthusiastic people respond when you tell them you lost weight. While losing weight by itself is not something necessarily positive. You could have lost weight for a hundred reasons. Stress, illness or even sadness. But the idea of skinny being a good thing, is so deeply rooted in our minds. And that’s why people are immediately happy when you’ve lost weight. Personally, I’m not always happy when losing weight. But the people around me are.
Women in leadership positions
I also think that the image of thin, successful women has to do with the lack of women in leadership positions. The more women holding higher positions, the broader the picture becomes of what a successful woman might look like.
As for the image of men, a gradual change is happening too. Now that skinny men like Mark Zuckerberg and late Steve Jobs have become big and famous with their companies, the image of successful men has changed as well. I think this change will also happen for women. The more successful, full-figured women become famous, the more our image will shift. And that is good. Because no matter how much this topic interests me, it is not a nice thought.