Women more likely to face ‘weight-based’ discrimination in the workplace

woman watching her weight featured

Women are more likely to be discriminated against at work due to their weight, according to a new study.

The research, conducted by Strathclyde University, found that even when women had a healthy BMI or had even a slight weight increase it had a negative impact on their job prospects.

The study, which was carried out in partnership with St Andrews and the University of Toronto, asked 120 participants to rate eight pictures of men and women for their suitability for customer-facing jobs, such as a sales assistant or waiter. Participants were told that applicants were equally qualified and were shown faces that reflected a ‘normal’ weight and a ‘heavier’ weight.

Professor Dennis Nickson, from the university’s department of human resource management said, “Many organisations in the service sector, such as shops, bars and hotels, seek to employ people with the right ‘look’ which will fit with their corporate image.”

“A key element of a person’s look is their weight. Workplace discrimination against those of anything other than ‘normal’ weight is not new.”

“A large number of studies have highlighted how people who are obese or overweight suffer from bias when they look for employment.”

“This study, though, shows how women, even with a medically-healthy BMI range, still face discrimination in service-sector employment.”

Continuing he added, “The results found that both women and men face challenges in a highly ‘weight-conscious’ labour market, especially for customer-facing roles. However, women face far more discrimination.”

“We found that women, even with a normal BMI range, suffered greater weight-based bias compared to men who were overtly overweight.”

“Ethically, the results of the study are deeply unsettling from the viewpoint of gender inequality in the workplace, highlighting the unrealistic challenges women face against societal expectations of how they should look.”

“From a business point of view, we would argue that employers should consciously work against such prejudice and bias by providing sensitivity training for those responsible for recruitment.”

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Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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