White Paper Proposal 3 – Society

For my White Paper Proposal Three I looked at two different books I found through the library source.  I found these to be very interesting because they not only looked at the discrimination at play based on attractiveness but also why such discrimination should and does exist.

The first book, Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful, was written by Daniel S. Hamermesh, an Economics Professor.  It is a recent book, only being published in 2011 and I had found many articles mentioning the book throughout my research so I was excited to learn that good ol’ Bertrand had a copy.

The most interesting point I took away from the book was that beauty might not entirely be the case.  Beauty can lead to many qualities that a legitimate for hiring.  This was a perspective I hadn’t yet looked much into, so I was interested to learn more about the author’s thoughts.  Hamermesh the beauty can be related to many other characteristics, the first he mentions being self esteem.  These two can be related but the correlation is weak.  When a person has self esteem and self confidence, they are likely to interview better and come across as a strong candidate.  Another characteristic related to beauty is personality.  There is also a positive correlation here.  Personality and fitting into a certain company culture is an important aspect of hiring, so this may be a legitimate cause for hiring.  Intelligence can also be related to beauty, but there isn’t as concrete evidence about this correlation.  Another aspect of beauty could be how well a person dresses.  If a person appears clean, put together, and fashionable, their perceived beauty increases.

Another interesting point that Hamermesh is that no one is required to apply for or work in a certain career or industry.  People choose what careers they want to apply for based on where they think their strengths and talents lie.  If you think about applying for jobs in this manner, it could be argued that a person is setting themselves up for failure if they know their strengths don’t coincide with what the company seems to be looking for.  Almost like a man applying for a waitering job at Hooters.  Hamermesh states that “We chose our occupations based on the mix of our skills, interests, and abilities, of which looks are just one” (71).  If better looking people apply to jobs where their looks would pay off, and lesser attractive people apply for jobs where looks don’t come into play, than a discrimination could be said to not exist.

Hamermesh also raises a question that seems to complement the Business perspective research I did.  Is beauty productive for the business?  Does beauty raise sales?  Are customers more likely to pay for products and services that are provided by attractive employees?  This makes sense in regards to Abercrombie and Fitch which I looked at last week.  Customers see the employees looking attractive in the clothing and therefore are enticed to buy them for themselves.

‘Lookism’ is a term that Hamermesh uses defined as “pure discrimination in favor of the good-looking and against the bad-looking – that should concern every citizen” (102.)  I think that this is a WONDERFUL term for me to adopt when writing my research paper!  This is clearly a concerning social trend that needs to be addressed.  While Lookism can benefit the corporate world, it can harm society and people’s general perceptions of themselves and what industries that think they have the talents to enter.

The second book I looked at, The Beauty Bias, by Deborah Rhodes, doesn’t so much as look at beauty from an economic and business standpoint but looks at beauty discrimination throughout history.  The book ends with Rhodes offering advice and goals for the future.  How should beauty discrimination evolve and what aspects of it need to change.  I know that this is on a deeper level than my policy recommendations, but I think by looking at the greater picture I will better be able to develop my ideas on policy reform.

One of the reforms she suggests is to work towards changing the definition of beauty.  More attainable and healthy standard of beauty should be promoted as well as “our aspirational standards should reflect greater variation across age, weight, race, and ethnicity, and our workplace grooming requirements should reflect greater tolerance for diversity and self-expression” (147).  Other main goals should be to not only decrease discrimination based on appearances but also encourage more healthy lifestyles in general.

Rhodes also believes that employers should work towards a less biased workplace based on appearance.  “As a threshold matter, they could give employees a greater role in developing policies on dress, grooming, and other appearance related issues” (152).  By involving employees more, it could leave to less of a bias, raise awareness of the discrimination that exists, and help employees learn to value each other as equals.  Employers should also look into including appearance discrimination as a type of discrimination that is prohibited in the office, alongside sex, race, and religion. etc.

I think that these society perspectives will add more depth to my paper.  We have the Government side that realizes it is a problem yet doesn’t have much established regulation on the issue.  The business side, that argues this shouldn’t be a problem, whatever is more productive for the business should be okay in hiring practices.  And the society perspective which sees both sides of the story.  I am very curious what other information and perspectives I will find as I keep researching the topic, writing my White Paper, and developing policy recommendations.


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