Pretty hurts

Does being beautiful make it harder for women to get IT jobs?

Staff Contributor
Man and woman waiting via Shutterstock

Attractive women face less bias when they acknowledge their appearance in interviews for typically male positions, research shows.

Employers offering stereotypically masculine positions are less likely to hire beautiful women, a recent study led by Colorado Boulder University has shown. Needless to say, this is one major factor in the gender imbalance in IT.

Female candidates with a attractive physical appearance are often deemed unfit for the job, based on their good looks. However, the study claims that women who acknowledge their beauty have better chances of gaining employment. The logic in this is that once the preconception is acknowledged the interviewer can move past it and properly judge the applicant.

“In the study, when an attractive woman applied for a job typically filled by men — a construction job — and said, “I know I don’t look like your typical applicant,” or “I know there aren’t a lot of women in this industry,” and pointed out successes on her resume, she received higher ratings from reviewers than counterparts who made no mention of their looks.”

So, what’s the problem?

While the facts are interesting to read, it’s still alarming that a female developer would have to utter a statement like “I know I don’t look like your typical applicant” to a prospective employer. A sentence like that is almost always followed by a “BUT” which adds an apologetic twinge to the phrase. This is a surface level solution to a deep-rooted problem.

Gender imbalance remains a big issue IT workplaces. WebMagazin recently commented on figures released by tech giants Yahoo, Facebook, Google and LinkedIn which still showed startlingly low numbers of female employees.


While the study presented by Colorado Boulder University is beneficial for drawing attention to stereotypical gender roles that remain in the workplace, women should not need to apologise for their looks or attempt engage in mind games to win over employers.

I know I don’t look like your typical employee, but…

A problem with the phrases suggested in the article by Colarado Boulder, is that candidates could also run the risk of accidentally insulting an employer by implying that their company has a “type”.

Female developers are better off researching a company’s gender statistics before interviewing and examining the results they provide. An alternative statement to address a situation could be “I’m seeking employment in a company that is striving to balance the rife gender imbalance in the technology sector”. If someone on an interview panel faults a candidate for a statement like this, applicants should question if the company is really a good fit for them.

A further issue, as pointed out by The Register, is that men do not seem to be subjected to the same scrutiny. Should you have the good fortune to be a smouldering hunk of delectable manhood, you’ll be on the inside track whether you want to be an oil-fire hellfighter or a hairdresser”. The argument should not be that men should be equally discriminated but rather, that further efforts should be made to break down the stereotyping of roles.

Whether it is in the construction sector or in academia, each job comes with specific criteria. Candidates and employers should be adhering to the job specifications and ensuring that those needs are met.

If a geekette meets the criteria outlined in the job advertisement for a construction site, her looks, whether good or bad, shouldn’t ever enter the equation. Sadly, they still do.


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