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Extra Pounds Undermine Perceptions of Business Acumen?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

We own a successful business and I have been overweight, substantially, my entire adult life. I have always felt that our degree of success in the competitive business arena might have been more if the sociological stigma of obesity was not prejudicing business contacts on an initial first meeting.

I was no stranger to such prejudices; they certainly existed in terms of dating back when I was in school. So maybe, I thought, I was hypersensitive, and seeing or perceiving (in the business world) such prejudices when they are not actually there. They WERE there in the dating arena, but maybe business contacts would place attributes such as qualifications, expertise and value ahead of something as irrelevant as girth? One would reasonably think (or hope)...

Enter the Yahoo home page. If one reads it on the internet it must be true? Splashed across the Yahoo home page, today, is an article that says that large waistlines and extra pounds undermine leadership perceptions in the business world. Now I have not run into this much, I would not say "never." The business prejudice against the obese is just as real as an any other segment of our unfair society.

Here is the hyperlink:

So, what say you? Fact or fiction? Have you run into weight-discrimination in the work place, for hiring, promotions or contracting (if like me, you live client-to-client?). Have you done anything about it, or attempted to? Tell...

PS - Sorry for the negativism of this post, but if not on Spark, where?
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Most people see obesity as a loss of self control..
    and they think if you can't control can you get the job done.
    Couple that with the fact that clothing options for obese people doesn't look
    as smart and are usually not as stylish, as smaller sized clothing,
    and the impression is less favorable.
    Perception is's hard to overcome.
    Given a couple like MIKE AND MOLLY or a couple who look like the 2 on CASTLE,
    the thinner candidates look sharper.
    1849 days ago
  • KANOE10
    My son is overweight and trying to get a job with a PHd. He has phone interviews and is very successful. Then after the personal interviews, he does not get a call back. I think weight is a factor. I think that article is right..Males and females are being discriminated against for weight . I have been overweight all of my life. Now that I am at goal, I find people treat me differently.
    1850 days ago
  • NUMD97
    FACT! [Sorry, but this had to be said loudly, just this once, OK?]

    I worked for a hospital consortium some time back as a consultant, and was exploring the possibility of staying on permanently. My team leader, a noticeably overweight male (and I don't mean just "chubby"), went to bat for me. He spoke to the nurse who ran the department, and what came back to me was absolutely shocking: She thought I walked around with my "shirttails hanging out". Say what???? Never once happened. Sorry. No way, Jose. But there was another male on my team, somewhat overweight, but not as much as the team leader, who DID "stylishly" dress like that, with the shirttails out and the sweater, shorter, over it. I'm not of the same generation, and I tried to encourage him to put the shirt in the slacks....but I digress.

    So, short answer, and proven, is an unqualified "Yes".

    I don't agree with PHEBESS below (with all due respect): I believe it's WOMEN who are expected to be thin in all locations, work, play or wherever. Men are much more easily forgiven for being overweight, as long as they are job performers. At least this has been my experience.

    I've had an overweight friend tell me the same [female of the species], that she was absolutely convinced she didn't land a particular job because of her obesity, even though she was more than amply qualified.

    So those are my anecdotes to enter into this mix.

    Thin, wins.
    1852 days ago
  • JIBBIE49
    Staying fit is important in any business.
    1854 days ago
    I think that there is some judgement, even when people don't say something. I am more critical of myself than others have been. Sometimes I think they say "If he can't manage his weight, how can he manage his department"?
    1854 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/21/2013 6:52:05 AM
    I do think there's more of an expectation for men to be fit than women - not sure why - maybe because women tend to gain weight with each child? I don't know.

    I've lived in places where overweight in women is considered preferrable - so I've never really experienced any discrimination for my weight. (Color, yes. Weight, no. In both the West Indies and Africa, women are more beautiful if they are heavy and curvy. Men, not so much.)

    But yes, I suspect there's discrimination out there, especially in competitive businesses.
    1854 days ago
  • MARYANN2323
    We are what we are. Not what the world thinks we are. Their loss.
    1855 days ago
    Like so many who have responded I have not Personally experienced weight discrimination but have be asked what is wrong with me that I have so many funny bumps on my face and arms. I have Neurofibromatosis a genetic disorder. Once i was asked in a interview if I could cover then with make up and this was for a nursing position! didn't get the job.

    I agree spark is a good place to share your feelings and get feed back from team mates
    1855 days ago
    I have been discriminated against due to my former weight. I was laughed out of a women's clothing store once, and was hated on sight twice by two separate potential bosses. It's really painful to be judged on your looks alone.
    1855 days ago
    I'm not sure if I have ever been discriminated against because of my obesity, but I believe I have been because of my age and obesity combined. I could still get positions I wanted in my forties, but in my fifties, those opportunities have "dried up."

    On the other hand, I believe that I got some positions when I was slim and in my twenties because I was attractive. I didn't realize it then, but looking back, I was. I had qualifications, as well, but I believe there were times that my looks worked in my favor - especially when men were the ones doing the hiring. I'm not a flirt - don't even know how to - but people respond to looks. I believe it's a fact, but it's certainly not fair.

    I remember Dateline or some show like that doing a piece where they showed children pictures of various people and asked questions like, "which person do you think is nicer?" or "which person do you think is smarter?" and the kids invariably went for the attractive photos. Sad, but true.

    I don't think either is fair. You shouldn't get a job because you're attractive and you shouldn't be denied a job because of obesity or age. Unfortunately, I think that's the world we live in.
    1855 days ago
    I haven't experienced it Mark, for being overweight, but I have seen it. Until I quit smoking and went through a personal life crisis I was a toothpick, a size 0 in jeans and pants even after having a baby. I had a body to die for but I wasn't really pretty. I had a friend that was drop dead gorgeous but was big bones, not fat, big boned. Someone actually said to her or me which ever that her face should be on my body. My friends sister was passed up for a promotion with the VNA because she was heavy set. They said that a nurse shouldn't be heavy that is going into people's houses helping them plan nutritious meals. It does exist.
    1855 days ago
  • ANGJENN822
    As far as I know...I have not experienced prejudice because I was overweight. I say as far as I know because some people aren't blatant about it...they are subtle. And sometimes I ignore what I choose not to see, lol. But I do believe it is a real thing. Will there ever be a day when a person is not judged based on their outside appearances? I don't know, but I hope so.
    1855 days ago
    I remember a conversation from years ago with a fieldwork student who was a classic beauty and she was concerned about not being taken seriously by the world because of her attractiveness. She was also very nice, and intelligent, and funny. She complained about not having dates. No one asked her out and she guessed it was because guys got intimidated and assumed she'd say "no". Discrimination based on appearance exists. And that seems to be true based on LOTS of variables.
    1855 days ago

    You might enjoy the program (free) with Steve Siebold: he addresses this issue with great and unusual frankness. But: he's one of the few. (Also addresses that other obesity "taboo topic" . . .)

    In my personal experience -- I get a lot more respect in the business/professional realm at 140 size 6-8 than I ever did at 230 size 18-20. People want the business/professional leader upon whom they are relying to be self-disciplined and that may be reasonable. And now I look more self-disciplined. Unfair? Maybe not. I AM more self-disciplined than I was (although it's an ongoing struggle!!)

    I blogged on this topic once and offended a lot of people . . . and I won't be blogging on the other obesity taboo topic!!
    1855 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/20/2013 12:50:44 PM
    Having been in a leadership position pretty much my entire adult life, I think performance has definitely 'outweighed' appearance, and haven't experienced prejudice as described. However, I think it has affected my own confidence as a leader at times. When you don't look and feel your best, it plays into your posture and attitude which can make you appear weaker. I feel 100x more confident than I did 34 pounds ago, and that comes across to others. I wonder if the evaluations of the people in the Yahoo study reflect more about their personal self confidence and how that comes across than their actual performance.
    1855 days ago
    I think overweight combined with over fifty and being female are all things I have to deal with as I navigate the job search world.
    1855 days ago
  • CMW123
    I would say that it is true to an extent just as women with grey hair. people ARE judged by appearance, I admit that I do it sometimes too. But in my case, I can honestly say that I do give the person a chance to prove their worth. However, there are some that only go as far as that first impression.

    Keep your chin up! You are doing great here in Spark world and you look good too! emoticon

    edit: I remember working for a defense contractor in Crystal City. The office manager was interviewing people for an engineering job. A highly qualified woman comes in and the office manager really liked her and her knowledge of the skills required. The woman did NOT get the job because she showed up to the interview in Birkenstocks although she WAS the right candidate for the position.
    1855 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/20/2013 9:59:39 AM
    I think it's like most things. There are good people and there are jerks. Lots of people make these kinds of judgments subconsciously. I've worked for lots of people who don't think they're sexist when making decisions but they are most definitely.
    1855 days ago
    Ok, I have not experienced the prejudice due to being overweight in any job situation, but I have definitely seen it.

    I HAVE however, experienced prejudice based on my height! I am 4 ft. 10.5 inches. when I started out in nursing, I was 100 lbs., as I am now. Well, inbetween I was up to 200 lbs., but another story. My point: I will always remember the first nursing position I had. I worked in a Med/Surg unit, but was often "floated" to ER and ICU. My Nursing Supervisor would let me know I was floating by saying, "Mommy's Little Helper is going to float to (fill int he blank)". OMG! I quickly moved on from that hospital and position for sure.

    I also remember a patient in ER saying to me, "Shouldn't you be in school little girl?" I was 28 @ the time and I just asked this patient "Well, how old do you think I am?" His guess . . . 18! Ok, well, I can laugh but then . . . sheesh!

    1855 days ago
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