Sunday, June 2, 2013

What Have Looks Got To Do With Business?

There are seemingly loads of articles and research that clearly shows that ‘attractive’ men and women earn more than those deemed less attractive.

In a book entitled ‘The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law’ by Deborah Rhode; she mentions how “physically attractive women and men earn more than average-looking ones, and very plain people earn less. In the labour market as a whole (though not, for example, in astrophysics), looks have a bigger impact on earnings than education, though intelligence - mercifully enough - is valued more highly still.” (cited in The Economist, 27th August, 2011).

Deborah Rhode highlights how “not everything comes easier: good-looking women seeking high-flying jobs in particularly male fields may be stymied by the “bimbo effect” until they prove their competence and commitment. But the importance of beauty in the labour market is far more pervasive than one might think. The same is true in other markets. Women have traditionally traded looks for economic support in marriage. A Chinese study confirms that the husbands of unappealing women earn about 10% less than those of their dishier counterparts. Attractive people also have an easier time getting a loan than plain folks, even as they are less likely to pay it back. They receive milder prison sentences and higher damages in simulated legal proceedings. In America more people say they have felt discriminated against for their appearance than because of their age, race or ethnicity. Pretty people, it seems, have all the luck.”

In another article in 2011 Alan Hall wrote in the Mail On-Line that “good-looking people worried about higher education shouldn't worry. Beauty is every bit as good as a BA when it comes to getting on, a new study says. Researchers at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg in northern Germany have found wages, promotions and perks at work are linked to a person's attractiveness. While looks have long been thought essential for women to climb the corporate ladder, they say, they are even more important for men.”

This is backed by further research, for example, in an article in Forbes Magazine in 2011 Susan Adams comments on research by Daniel Hamermesh that found below-average-looking men earn 17% less than those considered good-looking, while below-average-looking females earn 12% less than their attractive counterparts.

All this research from 2011 is still alive and well today, with an article published in the Mail On-Line on 10 March 2013, where they state that “Men blessed with the good looks to match George Clooney can reap the benefits in the workplace, says a study. Handsome men can command 22 per cent more in earnings than colleagues doing the same job because of their looks. But men with 'below-average' looks will pay the price for their appearance, earning 26 per cent less than an average-looking man in the same job. They were also 15 per cent more likely to be unemployed than more attractive men.”

Of course one may think this is unfair as we don’t choose how we are born and start to look around us at others in our peer group to see if their career path might be influenced by anything other than their performance – but it’s not the peer group you should be looking at – it’s the leadership. It’s a damning condemnation of today’s leadership if they are so shallow that they are influenced by looks when it comes to offering jobs; promotions and other perks.

Maybe this kind of research gives an indication as to why there is such a large pool of immature leadership in today’s global world and if we really want to see improvements in leadership throughout the globe, then this should be a kick-start to those involved in leadership development and leadership appointments to question the success criteria that drives their decision making.  


Adams. S. (2011). Does Beauty Really Pay. [On-line]. Accessed 2nd June 2013.

Hall, A. (2011). Looks are as important as brains to career success, a recent study shows. The Mail On-line. 21st December 2011. [On-line:]

Rhode, D. (2011). The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law. Oxford University Press; USA. [cited in the Economist:]


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