Some women may be deemed “too hot to hire” in more masculine workplaces, according to a University of Colorado-Denver study.

Attractive women are overlooked for certain jobs, including “manager of research and development, director of finance, mechanical engineer and construction supervisor.” The news service also pointed out other traditionally masculine job categories that were guilty of hiring discrimination against good-looking women: “They (women) were also overlooked for categories like director of security, hardware salesperson, prison guard and tow-truck driver.” The study was published in the Journal of Social Psychology.

hiring discrimination image

How The Research was Conducted

The researchers had a stack of 55 photos of male candidates and 55 photos of female candidates that they handed out to participants. Each participant was given a list of jobs and asked to sort the previously mentioned photos according to suitability for certain positions. Researchers found that women who were attractive were ruled out for certain jobs, while men who were attractive were always at an advantage.

“In every other kind of job, attractive women were preferred,” said researcher Stefanie Johnson. “This wasn’t the case with men which shows that there is still a double standard when it comes to gender.”

The study also mentioned that attractive people “tended to get higher salaries, better performance evaluations, higher levels of admission to college,” among other things. Although the women’s looks may have hindered their chances of getting hired in certain professions it greatly increased their probability in others.

Is This Really a Problem?

The research brings up the question: “So What?”

Should we really focus on attractive people not getting hired into certain jobs, or instead focus on the fact that people discriminate in general? There is no doubt that gender in the workplace has always been a hot-button issue. Lately, it seems, things are improving. Women are steadily closing the wage gap but there is still a long way to go to reach gender equity. The government got involved recently by devoting a section of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to promoting diversity in the financial workplace.

The findings showed that women were sorted into positions such as receptionists and secretaries, as opposed to prison guard or truck driver. With these results it makes it difficult to tell if people are discriminating based off of attractiveness or just making educated decisions. Does it make sense to hire a wafer-thin, tiny woman to guard dangerous criminals? Equal opportunity in the workplace is a must, but there needs to be a mutual understanding that hiring should be based on qualifications and not how good you look in a mini-skirt.

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Ask a Question

  • What about the jobs more attractive people do get based on their appearance? I think few would prefer to be less attractive than more when attempting to find a job.

  • Jessica Baker

    I still imagine being a model, flight attendant, or pharmaceutical rep would be more fun and lucrative than being a prison guard or tow truck driver, so I’m not gonna cry for the attractive women of the world just yet.

  • Edward L. Hicks

    With these results it makes it difficult to tell if people are discriminating based off of attractiveness or just making educated decisions. Does it make sense to hire a wafer-thin, tiny woman to guard dangerous criminals?”  Thanks for debunking your own article..

  • The photo has what to do with this story? Anyone, male or female, dressing like the women in the photo that accompanies this story are likely to be passed over for jobs like 
    “manager of research and development, director of finance, mechanical engineer and construction supervisor.”

    • Marina

      Hi Ben,

      I totally agree with you, I chose this photo as fun imagery complementing the study. Clearly the women in the photo are models and are exaggerating the point of the study, but it does show how appearance does make a statement when looking at the job world. 

      • Megan W

        I agree with Ben. The picture is distracting from the article and disrespectful to women. It makes a statement that the study’s definition of “attractive women” would presuppose women willing to pose half-nude for a suductive, sexual purpose. A picture of an attractive woman in a business suit or appropriate professional attire would have been more appropriate, not to mention accurate. Stereotypes like the one in the picture is exactly why women get skipped over for jobs, only they don’t walk into an interview dressed inappropriately. Hence the term “stereotype.”  

  • lately

    It all balances out.  Certain jobs almost require that you are attractive and some almost require that you are not.  Certain attractive men & women are desired by employers in the entertainment & hospitality type industries.  These same attractive men & women usually avoid jobs that are physically rough on their bodies because they don’t want to damage their attractiveness and advantages that they do have.  People who are unattractive usually have less advantages and are only at an advantage for rough, physical manual labor jobs.  In the business world, attractiveness of face, physique, and charm are tiebreakers qualities when stacking up two applicants of similar experience & qualifications.  A guy or gal won’t get a position in accounting or marketing because they look meaner and stronger!!!

  • Jcluma

    Of course in TV and News in particular only the very attractive need apply. They might all be smart, knowledgeable and articulate, but it’s clear that if a woman applies who’s average looking — fuggetaboutit! Today they all look like they’re right out of Playboy.

  • FierceNormy

    This give me an idea for a new business:  Uggle Up.

  • Maybe jobs online will equalize the playing field. 

  • paperdetectives

    If there are so many beautiful women available, but overlooked, how come we flyers are still forced to look only at ugly flight attendants?

    • Bob

      the last UAL flight attendant was a guy who looked like a longshoreman.

      • Jhon D’oh

        That was Betty she’s one of our best!

  • Henryhghiggins

    Not in Texas Prisions.We hire all types of people.

  • sarrab

    I rather look at these beauties all day then those fat pigs running around,

    • Ray

      And if someone considered one of your female relatives as the fat pig then it would be understandable and OK with you that she should be discriminated against? 

  • John Smith

    The comments show the point is being missed here.  It should be a level playing field for everyone.  Privilege is really a nasty construct in our society and until we start addressing it instead of saying things like “it all balances out” and other jobs are “more fun and lucrative” we will remain biased and prejudice.  Ultimately, we will continue to perpetuate the privilege/oppression dynamic we see in our society and continue to have “rages against the machine” as can be seen in the Occupy groups.
    Thank you Marina Shifrin for addressing this issue.

  • lorien1973

    If you think you might be “too hot to hire” doesn’t it behoove you to try and take away from that negative feature? Wear less make up to the interview, dress more business like, etc. Women who appear to be super-hot are always just wearing too much make up – they just know how to apply it.

    • nitnot

      Just wear a pair of glasses

  • Potential Something

    You mean there’s a large supply of extra-competent gorgeous babes out there desperate for a job, but men just won’t hire them? Yeah, seems likely.

    • xbox361

      yeah, and worry about the lawsuit?
      avoid hot nannies and babes at the workplace to avoid many headaches? in 2012 America you had better

  • Geoff Matthews

    This study means nothing. Assigning jobs based only on looks is one thing, but pictures aren’t included on resumes, and the job interview gives the candidate an opportunity to make a case for themselves.

  • edward

    I used to teach Carpentry Methods at the community college. From time to time my eldest daughter would come with me. I was always amused by the antics of 17-20 males when a tall willowy blonde spent the day on the project.

  • mechanic540

    You people and your PCBS make me ill.If an attractive woman wants a certain job then its on her to make her case,not some pathetic federal law forcing baseless standards on a potentail employer.

  • Without reading the study, the headline and conclusion that “attractive women are overlooked for certain jobs” is not supported by the data presented. Random people (not HR or hiring managers) were asked to judge “suitability for certain positions.” If presented a picture of an attractive, well-dressed woman one might very well assume she was not suitable for a job in construction simply because, from the picture, she doesn’t look like that is the sort of job she would want. In any event, the assessment that someone may or may not be suitable for a job does nothing to indicate if the person being questioned would consider or hire that woman if she were to apply for the position.

    I just hope my tax dollars didn’t go to fund this worthless, pre-concluded study.

  • OTOH, as an attractive woman, it is MUCH easier to not work.

  • Lee Reynolds

    “Should we really focus on attractive people not getting hired into
    certain jobs, or instead focus on the fact that people discriminate in

    Workplace discrimination is horrible. I’m discriminated against each and every time I apply for a job as a neurosurgeon. I have no training as such, but that’s still discrimination.


    I’m sick and tired of seeing the term discrimination used when the proper phrase is something more along the lines of improper discrimination, or irrational discrimination. To discriminate is to discern, to perceive the truth about something. Only when what someone thinks they are seeing is not actually there, is not actually the truth, is discrimination a bad thing.

  • Beautiful women have it so hard in our society… I weep for their suffering. See my tears?

  • Bah. There are many jobs in which an attractive woman, no matter how qualified, would be too much of a distraction to the rest of the workforce to justify hiring her. There are also many jobs in which an UNattractive woman would be a detriment to the firm, costing it revenue. This nonsense about “looks discrimination” — like the nonsense about every other kind of discrimination — is just a make-work program for America’s 1,000,000-plus lawyers.

  • SCSIwuzzy

    I am willing to bet more “3s” have lost out to an “8” at a job interview than “10s” have lost out to all others. I work in a technical field, and I’ve known plenty of pretty but useless men and women over the years.

  • Bibb

    Boo goo poor attractive women–I guess they will just need to use all their other advantages. What about ugly people? They are the ones really being discriminated against.

  • Much of the inequality we hear of is on account of self-selection by workers. Women and men actually (gasp!) tend to prefer (or be willing to do) different kinds of work.

    Heresy to claim that, I’m sure. Oh well.

  • xbox361

    I had a beautiful assistant for a few years and a friend asked me how I could work with her without distraction. We should compartmentalize. The part of my brain that wanted hot sex with her was crushed by the crazy idea that she was there to do a job. It really wasn’t hard to do. Just wonder if this is more a female HR problem rather than sexist man?
    Love women, love to check out beautiful women, love my wife more than anything but God.
    I suspect this story has a lot of truth to it and beautiful women don’t have great lives based on their transient beauty.

  • jim z

    Bogus. The news release for the study, linked in the story, doesn’t show the pictures of the “beautiful” exemplars used in the study. Are they too beautiful, or are they to sleezy-looking, for trustworthy positions?

  • The last sentence points to perhaps the biggest problem with the study: It examined how people make imaginary “hiring” based on no information other than physical appearance. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that to have any validity, the study would have to do a much better job of approximating how hiring decisions are actually made. Usually employers have no idea what an applicant looks like until he or she shows up for an interview, by which time a lot of more pertinent information has been considered.

  • xbox361

    good one

  • Tom

    I think this is equality. More jobs for butt ugly men tbh.