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The workplace must stop judging women by their looks

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Women in the workplace are often discriminated upon, whether in wages, promotion opportunities or appearances. It is clear more needs to be done to address the feelings and thoughts of women in the work environment.

Men and women alike in professional roles enjoy portraying their professional image, and whilst I am sure there are cases of men being discriminated against based on their appearance, the case is far more vocal for women.

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Most recently, Eileen Carey spoke out about why she ditched her blonde hair and contacts in replacement of a more serious brunette shade complete with glasses. Why? Because she wanted to be seen as a female business leader and not a sexual object.  

Whilst her sacrifice is noble, it is an indication that the work place needs to change its attitudes regarding the appearances of women at work.

It was only five months ago the government rejected the campaign to end the application of sexist dress codes which enforced the necessity to wear high heels in the workplace. Granted, those organisations accused enforced such codes to ensure a standard level of professional appearance within the work environment, but there was no direct mention from businesses was made that this was an ideology based on gender alone.

However, the notion that a woman cannot look or act professional without the assistance of an extra couple of inches in height is both demoralising and absurd for professional women.

Where dress codes are not enforced, the issue is still prevalent. Studies have found that one third of women are concerned that their appearances could hold back their career progression, often being passed over for promotion by more attractive women. Some businesses may defend this act by stating it is in the interest of company image, a term often batted around in the sales sector.

Whether or not a more attractive woman has rightfully earned her promotion over others, it is clear that a common concern on women’s minds regarding career advancement is their appearance.

business woman

Having worked in the recruitment sector, our number one tip to applicants is to not place a photograph on their CV, because doing so may hinder their job prospects. They are more liable to face discrimination during the application stage, as they will be judged on their appearance rather than experience, with the more attractive candidates being selected over average-looking applicants.

I wish I could say the topic is somewhat overblown, and that the reality of the matter is that these circumstances are rare and are often more gossip than fact. However, truthfully, I have also witnessed and heard about how demoralising the workplace can be due to comments made regarding the physical appearances of women.

Whilst the comments may have been made jokingly or were genuinely complimentary, I cannot ignore the fact that I have worked and talked with women who have received more comments regarding their figure than praise for their hard work and dedication. Thus, leaving them sceptical as to whether they are valued as an employee.

It seems the debate on female appearance in the workplace takes two sides depending on who you are and where you work. To be taken seriously, you must look like the average woman. To gain fast promotions, look attractive.

It is wholeheartedly conclusive that the work environment needs to abandon its ideas regarding how women should look in the workplace. In an ideal world, women would not feel pressured to look a certain way, and they would be evaluated on their performance as opposed to their image.

Yet, the reality of such a matter is restricted by decades of stereotypes often born and bred in the work environment itself. Therefore, change should come from the demands of people and women alike, because it is they who identify the issues, not the corporations.

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