Friday 23 March 2018

Obese women lose out in jobs search over anti-fat bias

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Kim Pilling

Obese women are more likely to be discriminated against when applying for jobs and receive lower starting salaries than slimmer colleagues, according to a new study.

The research -- led by the University of Manchester and Monash University, Melbourne -- examined whether a recently developed measure of anti-fat prejudice, the universal measure of bias (UMB), predicted obesity job discrimination.

Lead researcher Dr Kerry O'Brien said the nature of the study was initially concealed to avoid biased results and simply advertised as a study on whether some people are better at personnel selection than others.

"Participants viewed a series of resumes that had a small photo of the job applicant attached and were asked to make ratings of the applicants' suitability, starting salary and employability," said Dr O'Brien.

"We used pictures of women pre- and post-bariatric (weight loss) surgery, and varied whether participants saw either a resume, amongst many, that had a picture of an obese female (body mass index 38-41) attached, or the same female but in a normal weight range (BMI 22-24) following bariatric surgery.

"We found that strong obesity discrimination was displayed across all job selection criteria, such as starting salary, leadership potential and likelihood of selecting an obese candidate for the job."


Dr O'Brien said the participants' ratings of their own physical appearance and importance of physical appearance were also associated with obesity discrimination.

"The higher participants rated their own physical attractiveness and the importance of physical appearance, the greater the prejudice and discrimination," said Dr O'Brien.

"One interpretation of this finding might be that we feel better about our own bodies if we compare ourselves and discriminate against 'fat' people, but we need to test this experimentally."

Dr O'Brien added: "Our findings show that there is a clear need to address obesity discrimination, particularly against females who tend to bear the brunt of anti-fat prejudice."

Irish Independent

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