The Physical Traits That Make Women Most (And Least) Attractive To Employers

Numbers don't lie.

woman looking at computer getty

It's hard out there for women. That's just a fact. We work just as hard — some might say harder, myself included — to earn just 77 cents for every dollar our male peers make and are subject to gender inequality in the workplace.

We are continually fighting for the legal freedom to make decisions about our own bodies. We are also subjected to harassment, assault, and even abuse. I could go on... In fact, I'm going to. 


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When you're a woman, you cannot win, especially when it comes to the assumptions of others.

If you're pretty, people assume you're not intelligent or friendly.

If you're overweight, you don't take care of yourself and love cats too much.

If you're a brunette, you may have brains, but you're cold and frigid.

If you're blond, you're a privileged woman who gets everything she wants without earning any of it.

If you stay at home to take care of your kids, you're setting women back centuries.

If you're a mom who goes to work for a living, you're selfish, and your kids will suffer because you naively need to "have it all." 


A 2017 study revealed that when it comes to being hired for a job, if you're a woman, your appearance is a defining factor. In these findings, the only women who get treated well by hiring managers, both male, and female, are thin, white, and brunette. 

Fairygodboss ran a study in October of 2017. In the study, they rounded up 500 hiring professionals made up of both men and women and showed them photos of prospective female job hires. The photos included women of different shapes, sizes, hairstyles, clothing options, and races. They were asked to apply three adjectives to each woman and then say how likely they were to hire her based on the photograph alone. 


When the hiring professionals were shown a photograph of an overweight but professionally dressed woman, only 15.6 percent of the recruiters indicated that they would even consider hiring her. 

Read that again, okay? I need you to read it again. I'm worried you're not going to.

Only 15.6 percent of job recruiters polled would willingly hire an overweight woman. 

Twenty percent of hiring professionals who saw this photo described the woman as being "lazy." Twenty-one percent of hiring professionals described her as being "unprofessional." Only 18 percent said she looked like she had "leadership potential."

So, without a resume, interview, and no further knowledge of this woman at all, these hiring professionals picked negative descriptions that have become stereotypes about overweight people. 


More than 35 percent of American women are obese, according to research done by the New England Journal of Medicine. I am one of those women. 

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As a lifelong member of the fat club, I know that the rest of society views my shape and size as an "epidemic." 

They don't know my blood pressure (phenomenal), my sugar levels (good), or my cholesterol (low, baby). They don't know how often I work out (three times a week, combining aerobic and anaerobic workouts). They don't know anything in particular about me or any other single, overweight woman, but they have decided we are all on the verge of death. 


I'm not naive enough to think that this sort of hiring basis is limited to just a woman's weight, either. Check out these results. 

First, we have the order in which a female hiring professional would hire a woman based on the photos:

  1. Brunette: 58.96 percent
  2. Black woman: 50.2 percent
  3. High neckline/curly hair: 45.82 percent
  4. Smiling: 41.04 percent
  5. Short hair: 39.84 percent
  6. Blonde: 39.04 percent
  7. Asian: 32.37 percent
  8. Older woman: 31.08 percent
  9. Tattooed: 26.29 percent
  10. Latina: 23.11 percent
  11. Low neckline: 22.31 percent
  12. Wearing a skirt: 16.73 percent
  13. Heavier: 14.74 percent
  14. Frowning: 12.75 percent

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According to these stats, if you're wearing a skirt, on the heavy side, or not smiling, a female hiring professional is less likely to hire you.


We can't blame the men for this one, since these are women looking at other women without any other information about them and making decisions about their professional capabilities. It's hogwash. It's baloney. It's... probably why I do so many remote jobs from my home, so I don't have to not get hired for being a frowning, tattooed fattie. 

Here's what that same breakdown looks like for male hiring professionals:

  1. Brunette: 61.04 percent
  2. Blonde: 50.2 percent
  3. High neckline: 49.8 percent
  4. Black woman: 40.96 percent
  5. Low neckline: 36.95 percent
  6. Smiling: 34.94 percent
  7. Short hair: 30.92 percent
  8. Asian: 30.52 percent
  9. Latina: 30.12 percent
  10. Older woman: 27.31 percent
  11. Curly hair/skirt: 26.1 percent
  12. Tattooed: 22.09 percent
  13. Frowning: 17.27 percent
  14. Heavier: 15.66 percent

Men are apparently slightly more forgiving of tattoos and a frown than having extra weight. 

We are all taught that when we get ready to go out into the world and interview for jobs we want to make the best possible impression. We want to look clean and professional. We want to smile and speak eloquently. We want to be the best possible advocate we can be for the good team asset that we would make. 


Little did we know that in struggling to do all of these things, what we are really fighting against is ourselves. We fight against our shapes, races, size, and even our hair color. We cover stuff up, and we highlight other things. We distract.

I always say that society is the issue when it comes to how women's bodies have been politicized, but studies like this make me feel like it's our bodies that are the real problem.

If we were all just brains in wheeled jars, would we finally be able to get past our appearances and preconceptions, or would we find other things to fixate on? "Check out the gray matter on that one, Melvin!" 


If you are a woman and you feel like every day is a war, you aren't wrong. You're here though, and you're fighting it.

You're reading stuff like this, talking about it, spreading information, and hopefully, in doing all of that, you are making a tiny, little dent of change that will grow into something bigger, scarier, and impossible to ignore. 

Until that happens, though, if you have a job interview, give yourself a leg up and smile, even if the stats aren't always worth smiling about.

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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer and former editor for Yourtango. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.