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Too pretty to work?

Good looks will get you everywhere -- but not if you're a woman looking for a job, according to a recent study that says that female recruiters are discriminating against attractive female candidates.

The research, published by the Royal Economic Society, says that attractive women who attach a photo to their CV are less likely to get an interview than their plainer counterparts. Bizarrely, attractive men are more likely to get an interview than plain men.

For those wondering what sort of eejit sends a photograph with his or her CV, the study was carried out in Israel where it is standard procedure to include a small headshot when applying for a job, unlike in Ireland.

The researchers point the finger at the predominately female, young and single personnel working in human resources departments who become "jealous" of attractive female applicants. The research involved sending some 5,300 CVs for 2,650 job vacancies. For each job, two applications were sent. One contained a photograph of an attractive man or woman, or a plain-looking man or woman. The other CV was identical, but did not contain a photograph.

In a curious double standard, attractive women were called to be interviewed for a position less often than both plain-looking women or women who had no picture on their CV. Women who did not attach a picture to their CV were 22pc more likely to receive a response than women with a plain picture and 30pc more likely than women with an attractive picture.

Their report concluded that the evidence points to "female jealousy of attractive women in the workplace as a primary reason for their penalisation in recruitment".

To confirm the findings, the researchers telephoned the companies who were recruiting to find out about the people who screened the candidates.

They found that 96pc of the recruiters were female, 70pc were single and the majority were between the ages of 23 and 34.

"I wouldn't have doubted that this could happen," says career coach, Paul Mullan of Measurability. "Discrimination, in many forms, has always been part of recruitment and will never be eliminated.

Indeed, study after study has proved that good-looking people get paid more and scale the corporate ladder quicker.

"This research goes against the findings of a study based on job interviews in the US and Canada," adds communications consultant Terry Prone. "That study showed workers considered 'of below-average beauty' were paid about 7pc less than the average."

Corporate image consultant Frances Jones is also surprised by the findings. Jones advises women in the top tiers of Irish business about the importance of personal image and she insists that she has never heard of women discriminating against attractive women in the workplace.

However, she noted that we all make snap judgements of women who are exceptionally well groomed.

"A prospective employer might think, 'is she going to always be going to the toilet to reapply her lip gloss?'"

Michelle Villalobos, author of Why Women Play Dirty: How Women Are Biologically & Socially Programmed To Undermine Each Other At Work, is of a different opinion. She posits that female rivalry is part of our evolutionary psychology by comparing the biological drives of men and women.

Her special report is based on the premise that a man can impregnate any amount of women right up until his deathbed. A woman's fertility has a deadline. She releases just one egg a month, which, if fertilised, will keep her down for nine months . . . and later a lifetime.

"Put simply: woman was largely best served by setting her sights on snagging -- and keeping -- a genetic winner and a good provider. Problem is, there has always been competition for scarce resources, and good, loyal men were no exception.

"It wasn't so easy to get them to stick around when there were other, younger, more beautiful and fertile women eager to steal them away. So while men evolved to be attracted to younger, more fertile women, women evolved to feel threatened by them. This is one major reason why women have evolved to compete so doggedly -- at times even pathologically -- on youth and beauty."

Prone agrees that women are hardwired not to trust one another.

"During the witchhunt craze of the middle ages, women were tortured until they informed on each other, 'outing' their friends and family as witches in the vain hope of saving their own lives.

"Starting with the exceptionally pretty women in any town, hundreds of thousands were burned to death. I believe that left a scar in the memory of women: don't trust any other woman."


Female jealousy is insidiously common but rarely discussed openly. If you're a woman reading this, ask yourself honestly if you experienced a pang of jealousy when your female colleague got a promotion or your best friend treated herself to a dress by a coveted fashion designer.

Remember that the term 'frenemy' was coined by a woman to describe a largely female dynamic.

"Every woman has a running commentary in her head: 'Oh, dammit, you're so gorgeous so slim and I hate you'," adds Prone, talking about attractive women.

"I meet a funny reaction when I do after-dinner speeches. They [other women] listen to the intro about me being on TV at 13, publishing my first book at 23, running a company, appearing on TV and the women, particularly, take a while to realise I'm kind of harmless. They expect me to be a hard bitch.

"But then, whenever I meet a reasonably well-known successful woman, I expect her to be a bitch."

One recalled how she was routinely unsuccessful in job interviews (with female interviewers) until her mother advised her not to wear make-up.


Another friend working for a fashion label says working in a largely female environment is like being back in her all-girls' secondary school.

Personally, I remember a female recruiter telling me she wasn't going to hire another female because she was impeccably groomed: "It was just too much," she said. (Read: too much for her to compete with.)

As for my experience of job interviews, I always check in advance to see if it's a man or woman interviewing. If it's a man I wear heels and full make-up. If it's a woman, I tone down the make-up and opt for flats.

Our biology naturally pits us against one another, as countless female authors have contended. Books investigating the complex female dynamic include I Can't Believe She Did That: Why Women Betray Other Women at Work; Tripping the Prom Queen: The Truth About Women and Rivalry and Woman to Woman: From Sabotage to Support.

Women Loving Women, the first Hite Report in more than a decade, explores female friendship and our underlying tendency to compete with one another. Sex researcher and cultural historian Professor Shere Hite believes that gender equality can only be reached once women overcome their jealousy of other women. Misogynists aren't always male, as this latest study illustrates.