Attractive women at disadvantage for unattractive jobs, study says

August 10, 2010

A new University of Colorado Denver study finds that attractive women often face discrimination when it comes to jobs that are considered “masculine”.

Participants were given a list of jobs and photos of applicants – a stack including 55 men and 55 women Reuters reports. They were asked to sort the photos according to their suitability for a list of various job positions, such as mechanical engineer, construction supervisor, security chief, and director of finance.

Assistant professor of management and lead study author Stefanie Johnson says in a news release:

“In these professions being attractive was highly detrimental to women. In every other kind of job, attractive women were preferred. This wasn’t the case with men which shows that there is still a double standard when it comes to gender.”

The study, published in the Journal of Social Psychology, finds that attractive men are always at an advantage over men considered to be less handsome, no matter what type of job.

In general, it has been shown that attractive men and women have advantages in the workplace. Johnson points out they tend to receive higher salaries, better performance evaluations, higher levels of college admission, better voter ratings when running for public office, as well as more favorable judgments in trial.

Newsweek also recently conducted a survey assessing the importance of appearance in the workplace. The magazine surveyed 202 hiring managers and 964 members of the public. 57 percent of managers believe an unattractive job candidate will have a more difficult time getting hired, despite being qualified for the position. 68 percent said that after a candidate is hired, they believe appearance will continue to influence the way managers rate job performance. 72 percent of the public said that being physically attractive was an advantage for women looking for a job and 63 percent said attractiveness is an advantage for male job seekers.

The rest of the Newsweek results can be found here.

Men have potty hands

October 16, 2009

Happy belated Global Handwashing Day (it was officially October 15th, but really shouldn’t this be a holiday that is observed everyday?). And what better way to celebrate than with a new study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine that finds only one-third of men wash their hands with soap after using the bathroom, compared to two-thirds of women.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Public Health, are based on a study of  250,000 people in Britain whose use of soap in restrooms was monitored with sensors over a period of 32 days. Also examined was the effectiveness of various handwashing reminders which were displayed on LED screens at the entrance of the lavatories.

The most effective reminder was found to be “Is the person next to you washing with soap?” When this message was displayed, the use of soap jumped 12 percent for men and 11 percent for women, suggesting that if you make people feel like they are being watched, they’ll be more likely to comply with a directive. Gross is also good, if you are a man, with messages such as “soap it off or eat it later” eliciting higher response rates; women, however, responded better to simple reminders.

The importance of handwashing should not be underestimated. The study’s authors write:

“Handwashing with soap has been ranked the most cost-effective intervention for the worldwide control of disease…It could save more than a million lives a year from diarrhoeal diseases, and prevent respiratory infections – the biggest causes of child mortality in developing countries.”

Now, as one of the tested reminders commands, please “don’t be a dirty soap dodger” and go wash your hands. Or maybe they meant you should avoid dirty soap? Either way, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has several helpful handwashing tips.

Young men like to wiki

September 8, 2009

The results of a new survey show that only 13 percent of contributors to Wikipedia are women. The survey was conducted by the Wikimedia Foundation and MERIT, the United Nations University’s technology research program. The findings were presented at a recent Wikimedia event in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

According to Digits, a Wall Street Journal blog, the survey consisted of 175,000 responses. 53,888 of the participants said they contribute to Wikipedia, and out of those contributors only 6,814 were women. They found the average age of participants who use Wikipedia to be in their twenties – 26 was the average age for men and 24 for women.

The percentage of men and women who read Wikipedia, but don’t write or edit entries is closer, but still not near being even – 69 percent of the readers were men and 31 percent were women.

The survey also asked the reasons for visiting the website, the top two found to be fact-checking and sharing knowledge.

What would motivate more people to contribute to Wikipedia? The Wall Street Journal says the top responses were if:

“I knew there were specific topic areas that needed my help” (41 percent), followed by “It was clear to me that other people would benefit from my efforts” (36 percent). Thirty-two percent marked “Other/don’t know/don’t want to say.”

Women Not Interested in Science? What About Biology, Chemistry and Medicine?

May 19, 2008

Rebecca Goldin Ph.D and Maia Szalavitz

The Boston Globe has reported what they consider the “newest” findings on the lack of women in science and engineering. They call it “the freedom to say ‘no’” and claim that women just aren’t interested.

First, let’s talk science. Medicine and biology were ignored by the Globe piece, and the gender gap in these fields has disappeared over the past 50 years. In fact, 60% of biology degrees now go to women, and recent data show 49.5% of first-year medical students in 2004 were women, and they formed a majority of applicants. (In chemistry, another subject relevant to medicine, 30% of BAs awarded went to women in 1981 and 41.5% by 1996.)

The number of women entering medical school increased five-fold between the 1960s and 1980s, a period that saw not only tremendous gains in equality, but also the social acceptance of women pursuing science. Prior to the Title IX education amendments in 1992, some medical schools imposed a cap on the number of women students. Now, there is even the suggestion now that medical schools are practicing affirmative action for men.

When it comes to math, engineering, and computer science, there is a persistent gap. The recent study prompting the Boston Globe article points to the possibility that girls and young women don’t want careers in these fields; it hypothesizes that this lack of interest is possibly a better explanation than gender discrimination or unwelcoming work environments. And as if to dismiss serious initiatives toward making headway into this issue, the economist Joshua Rosenblum of University of Kansas is cited as wondering whether a campaign by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to root out gender discrimination in science and engineering was a total waste of money, since discrimination may not be the problem at all. (The NSF program sponsors “mentoring programs, gender-bias workshops, and cooperative work environments,” according to the Globe.)

But the Globe’s coverage – and the observations by the economist whose study prompted the piece – was highly reductive. Few serious researchers on this issue would claim that the only barriers to entrance in the “hard” sciences are discrimination and/or work environment. Both women’s and men’s interests, which are well-known to be one of the best predictors of success in math and science, do not develop in a social vacuum. If there are social pressures for women not to conceive of themselves as mathematicians/engineers, then they will self-select out citing their own lack of interest. (Indeed, there is much research to show a measurable mentoring gap between men and women in college pursuing science)

The NSF (which funds many programs targeted to women and girls, not just gender-bias workshops) has long recognized that even seemingly innocuous facets of our culture can have a lasting impact on women’s interest — such as the fact that computer games (often kids’ first exposure to computers) tend to be violent and repetitive, possibly appealing less to girls than boys.

If teachers and parents gently drive their female students and daughters towards careers in biology instead of physics, it would be hard to measure — and if the culture of a classroom promotes competitive male success, the girls who “opt out” would barely be noticed. Among many branches of research within math education one of the most hard to address focuses on learning and identity formation. Why is it that boys tend to identify more as a physicist or a mathematician than girls?

So while the Boston Globe calls it “freedom”, a serious (female) scientist might ask whether personal preference develops independent of social context. There’s no evidence suggesting that it does, and to effectively discount biology and medicine as “science,” as the Globe did, may be convenient narrative slight of hand, but it sure sounds like sexism: if women are now beginning to dominate these fields, they can’t be “real” sciences.

Time Out Does a Number on Single Women in New York

November 9, 2007

Maia Szalavitz

Recently, Time Out New York sent a wave of panic through the city’s single women by reporting in its cover story that there are 185,000 more single women than men here. The article cited National Geographic, which had analyzed census figures. To make the numbers even scarier, the package cited excesses of women in college compared to men.

But this is a false comparison as college enrollment figures are not measures of population: there may be fewer men enrolled in college, but among the college-age group, there is no shortage of men compared to women. And the census figures actually do not include people living in dorms.

Basically, the excess of women is due to the fact that men tend to die at younger ages than women do. If you look at the male/female numbers in the younger age groups, in most, there are significantly more men. For example, there are 211,590 men aged 18 and 19 in the NY Metro area – but only 201,282 women.

The disparity may also reflect shorter lifespans and excessive incarceration among men of color: in the white non-institutionalized population, men actually outnumber women even in the 35-44 age group, but in the whole non-institutionalized population, the male/female ratio is skewing female by that age.

That is certainly a story – but not one that can be represented on a magazine cover by a giant, young, single white woman taking Manhattan!

Originally published July 9, 2007


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