By Margarita Nahapetyan
It is much harder for women with extreme weight to get promoted to the top levels of management, than it is for overweight men, according to U.S experts of Michigan State University.
Based on previous research, there is an evidence that overweight and obese women in the United States face discrimination when it comes to be advanced as CEOs (chief executive officers). In contrast, overweight men, are overrepresented of CEO positions in America, says Mark Roehling, an associate professor of Human Resource Management at Michigan State University.
However, the expert pointed out that men encounter the same discrimination problems as women, when being considered among top CEOs. Our findings suggest that while being extremely overweight complicates climbing the career ladder for both genders, being just 'merely overweight' affects only female executives - and may actually be beneficial for male executives, Prof. Roehling said. His study is the first ever to look at the effects of weight in the promotion prospects of women, especially to top levels of management positions.
To come up with this conclusion, the researchers focused their attention on the bosses of 1,000 top U.S. companies. Photographs of these people were examined by two groups of experts: one group included medical professionals, who had training and expertise experience in weight estimation, and another group was formed out of individuals who were able to accurately analyze the photos of other people.
The experts in both groups observed that only 5 per cent of male and female CEOs at leading companies were obese, much lower number compared to the U.S. average of 36 per cent for men and 38 per cent for women of similar age. The study also found that up to 61 per cent of the male bosses were categorized as overweight, which is higher than an average of about 41 per cent of overweight men among the general U.S. population. And just 22 per cent of female chief executives were judged as being overweight, far less when compared to 29 per cent of females in the general population.
However, being obese, which is 30 or more pounds of extra body weight, appeared to be negative for both men and women in the workplace, the study found. It was seen that while overweight men could fortunately take the top positions in many companies, if they became too overweight or obese their representation in the boardrooms of leading companies was diminished. The experts could not explain whether it was the obesity itself that affected the advancement - as for many people extreme weight is associated with lack of confidence - or whether it was just the result of negative perceptions from the employers. Whatever the case, they say that the fact is that obesity restricts one's full potential and could be the reason of not getting the top position.
It was also revealed that overweight workers were routinely thought of as 'possessing negative personality traits', and emotionally unstable. Very often they were considered to be lazy, out of control and dirty. And what is more, it was just overweight women who elicited the most negative reactions. "It appears that the glass ceiling effect on women's advancement may reflect not only general negative stereotypes about the competencies of women, but also a weight bias that results in application of stricter appearance standards to women," Prof. Roehling stressed out.
The new study is published in the British journal Equal Opportunities International.