In news that makes us roll our eyes, a recent study shows that women who focus their attention on their grooming habits (read: makeup, hair styling, wardrobe, etc.) — as opposed to, you know, their actual jobs — get paid more in the workplace. In other news that makes us roll our eyes, this doesn't apply to men. Sociologists Jaclyn Wong of the University of Chicago and Andrew Penner of the University of California at Irvine gathered data from past studies to prove how attractiveness correlates to income. The research reveals that "attractive" men and women earned more (about 20%, to be exact) than those deemed to have "average attractiveness." While those findings aren't exactly groundbreaking, Wong and Penner dove deeper into what "attractive" actually means in this context. And what they found might surprise you.
As Wong tells The Washington Post: “For women, most of the attractiveness advantage comes from being well groomed. For men, only about half of the effect of attractiveness is due to grooming." As the study states: “Although appearance and grooming have become increasingly important to men, beauty work continues to be more salient for women because of cultural double standards with very strict prescriptions for women.” Sigh, tell us something we didn't know. The study — which pulled information from participants who engaged in face-to-face interviews in the past — further explains that grooming actually matters more than your au naturel beauty. “Being attractive is not enough,” the study reads. What truly matters to get ahead in the workplace, researchers have found, is how much work you put in to amplifying your looks.
Perhaps the amount of effort a person puts into his or her appearance signals how much effort he or she will put into other activities, like his or her job.
Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner
Why are women who choose to prioritize grooming more likely to get ahead? One reason, the study suggests, is that those who spend more time primping are willing to work harder. "Perhaps the amount of effort a person puts into his or her appearance signals how much effort he or she will put into other activities — like his or her job — and that is why we see greater labor market returns to grooming than to attractiveness," it reads. But couldn't the opposite argument be made of someone who spends less time on his or her appearance and focuses more on daily tasks? There's no denying that for some women, swiping on mascara, patting on blush, or styling their hair a special way can make them feel more confident at work — which in turn impacts performance. For others, not so much. At the end of the day, beauty is a form of self-expression and you should feel free to use it in whatever way makes you feel happy and empowered — without having to answer to a strict definition of what that looks like. Of course it shouldn't need saying that a woman's worth and success in her job shouldn't be measured by her makeup skills (unless she's a makeup artist). Does this study press your buttons as much as it does ours, or are you unfazed? Sound off in the comments below.