Fem Hiring Jealousy

I’d always wondered why men get a higher wage premium than women for good looks.  Now we learn jealousy by women in charge of hiring seems a likely explanation:

Job applicants in Europe and in Israel increasingly imbed a headshot of them- selves in the top corner of their CVs. We sent 5312 CVs in pairs to 2656 advertised job open- ings. In each pair, one CV was without a picture while the second, otherwise almost identical CV contained a picture of either an attractive male/female or a plain-looking male/female. Employer callbacks to attractive men are significantly higher than to men with no picture and to plain-looking men, nearly doubling the latter group. Strikingly, attractive women do not enjoy the same beauty premium. In fact, women with no picture have a significantly higher rate of callbacks than attractive or plain-looking women. We explore a number of explanations and provide evidence that female jealousy of attractive women in the workplace is a primary reason for the punishment of attractive women.

For every additional point a judge assigns to a photographed person’s beauty, the judge rates the same person’s intelligence .29 points higher on average. This result is highly significant and contradicts the dumb-blonde hypothesis. … A female subject who is rated one point higher for her beauty is also perceived to be an extra .26 points more intelligent on average.

We asked each company surveyed to indicate what message is conveyed by a … candidate who includes a picture. … Thirty-six percent of the respondents reacted positively to males’ inclusion of a picture, invoking terms such “presentable” and “confident”. Only 28% of the respondents expressed negative associations for male photographs. By contrast, negative sentiments were the predominant response (56%) to females CVs with pictures. “Not serious” and “an attempt to market herself via her appearance” were among the reactions. A mere 12% of respondents expressed a positive association. These findings suggest that we cannot rule out the negative signaling story. … 93% of the [hiring] respondents in our sample were female …

We have presented a range of evidence that suggests that female jealousy is part of the observed and unexpected discrimination against attractive females. To begin, women mostly do the initial screening of CVs. When the hiring is done by the company in which the hired job candidate will work, these women discriminate strongly against attractive women and only attractive women, treating all other picture CVs similarly to the paired no-picture CV. Outside employment agencies in charge of hiring provide a control group. They differentiate significantly between the picture and paired no-picture CVs in all cases, with the attractive females being the only exception: employment agencies discrimination against attractive women is only weakly significant. (more; HT Dan Houser.)

So now that firms know this, will they still let female hiring folks discriminate against pretty female applicants?  Will the law and politicians allow such blatant unfairness to continue? Of course they will. But it is interesting to consider why exactly this will happen.

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  • Buck Farmer

    I imagine we should see greater income equality among women than men as well if these results hold. Not sure how to do the comparison properly though given the other factors at play.

  • Fnord

    So, in-company HR people discriminate against attractive women due to jealousy. You could maybe pull that out of the data.

    But agencies discriminate against ALL women who send pictures. Why is that? The “attempt to market herself via her appearance” signal is offered by the paper as an explanation. And who is more likely to be perceived to be using her appearance, a plain woman or an attractive woman?

  • http://danieltarmac.blogspot.com Henry

    One motive for anti-discrimination laws is redistribution. Given that attractive women are presumed to have significant social and erotic capital, there is less need to redistribute. Still, this only answers why we don’t redistribute towards the erotically endowed and not away from them (e.g. Mankiw’s height tax). I suppose it might just be a matter of transaction costs (which I think is a reasonable retort to many of Robin’s supposed inconsistencies) but I don’t get the impression that a significant lowering of transaction costs would change things.

  • Lucy

    I appreciate the change in title from “Empowered Fem Jealousy” to “Fem Hiring Jealousy.” I kept misreading the first one as “Empowered From Jealousy.”

  • Someone from the other side

    Employer callbacks to attractive men are significantly higher than to men with no picture and to plain-looking men, nearly doubling the latter group.

    Traditional signaling theory would people being forced towards disclosure and thus pictures – any indications for this (European myself, my CV comes in both versions depending on where it goes but more often than not, I use a pic)?

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  • Misha Barton

    This body of research would be even more illuminating if they could factor in the attractiveness of those doing the screening/hiring. I’d expect to see some interesting cross-effects of gender and attractiveness of the candidates and hiring parties. Those, in turn, might bolster the conclusion that jealousy does indeed play a role in women-to-women hiring discrimination.

    But that would require the hiring professionals in the study be rated on their own attractiveness. And no HR manager as monstrously hideous as the one at my former employer… whoops, I mean, with attractiveness levels 4+ standard deviations below average, especially ones that laid off the talented, attractive HR before her… whoops forget the last part I just said…would ever consent to a study where they know their looks would be judged.

  • M

    The fact that attractive women face discrimination in some fields is not exactly a new finding. I recall reading about the “beauty is beastly” effect back in 2003, in addition to the study which came out earlier this year. Not to mention the discrimination against unattractive and overweight women. Have you ever written about those biases? Or do you only write about biases against women when women can be blamed for them?

    • Steve

      Apparently, in the narrative of modern ‘feminism’, it is impossible for any of womens’ problems to be the result of womens’ behavior.

  • Jordan

    The gender difference is quite significant and interesting. However I should caution people not to be outraged that pretty people are more likely to be hired: How good a person looks in a photo is hugely influenced by dress, make-up, posture, and expression. These are signals of social skills, which are a perfectly valid and important subset of general intelligence, and difficult to express on a CV. 0.29 points more qualified per 1 point more attractive is a bit higher than we might like to aim for in the modern world, but isn’t offensively off the mark.

  • Horsetooth

    Intra-gender competition (for males and females) in response to mating valent concerns is always where the real story lies.