Just because discrimination in the workplace isn’t as blatant as it may have been before doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. If you look closely, you’ll find that there are some things that are more difficult to erase from the corporate culture. According to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, women who are overweight are less likely to get picked in job interviews. They’re also more likely to get lower starting salaries compared to their slimmer counterparts.
Using a recently developed form of anti-fat prejudice called the universal measure of bias (UMB), researchers tried to find a connection between people’s own insecurities and their attitude toward obese women. To prevent biased results, they also disguised the research by saying that the study was about how well the participants made personnel selections.
Participants were shown resumes with pictures of women and were asked to rate them according to employability, suitability and starting salary. The pictures that researchers used were of women before and after bariatric surgery. Some of the participants were given pictures of applicants who were slimmer while others were given pictures of applicants who were more obese.
Results? The higher the participants scored on the UMB and the more they thought themselves to be superior, the more they discriminated against the obese applicants. According to psychologist and lead researchers Dr. Kerry 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."
It’s not such a far-fetched interpretation. The study simply goes to show that society needs to do a lot more growing up and that we could use a little time off to reflect on our own as well. Discrimination in general is rooted in the person who does the discriminating in the first place. Instead of looking outward, perhaps it’s time we ask ourselves what the problem really is.
(Screencap from Shallow Hal courtesy of 20th Century Fox)