The workplace can be a difficult environment with various prejudices having drastic effects on how seriously someone is taken, and even how much they are paid. It is common that male employees will earn more than female employees for doing the same job. But a new study has found that being overweight can result in a similar pay difference.
It was seen that, in some cases, being overweight resulted in employees not only being taken less seriously, but also being given lower pay than their slimmer colleagues. The study was performed by LinkedIn, the social media website focusing on employment opportunities. A survey was done of 4,000 adults, in both full-time and part-time employment, and the results were interesting, to say the least.
The BMI Anomaly
The key term in the study was BMI, or Body Mass Index. This is the system used in the medical world that determines if someone is overweight, or obese. The system is based on height versus weight, and will classify anyone upwards of what the BMI sees as within a healthy weight zone as being unhealthy. This has been debated on many occasions, with a number of medical institutes raising the point that it is incorrect to link weight directly to individual health.
Regardless, the LinkedIn study found out of the 4,000 surveyed, that in the United Kingdom those who were obese, according to the BMI, earned around £1,940 less than those who were healthy, according to the BMI. But the apparent prejudice didn’t stop there. At least 1 in 4 in the overweight BMI zone also reported that they felt they had lost out on a promotion or on a job offer due entirely to their size.
It Goes Deeper
More so, a full three quarters of those who found themselves in the obese zone of the BMI chart likewise felt that they had lost employment opportunities. On a deeper level, over half reported that they felt shunned, left out, or otherwise overlooked in their work environment. When asked if they felt that slimmer colleagues progressed quicker in a given field, almost half said that they felt this was the case.
Yet, it goes even deeper than this. A woman in the overweight, or obese, zone of the BMI scale is more likely to earn less; even if put against a male employee in the same weight zones. The annual gap sat at an average of around a stunning £8,919. Overall, the study revealed that a woman was more likely to be affected by body image, with around 39% of women stating that they felt it was a major factor in their careers, and 28% of men making the same statement.
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The Age Dilemma
Additionally, the study revealed a few interesting connections between body image and age. The 16-24 age group were most likely to feel self-conscious about their image in a work environment, which dramatically affected their performance.
Those over 55, however, were least likely to be affected by their image in any way at all. In fact, there was a clear connection between age and overall confidence, including weight. Which is to say, it seems that the older we get, the less we care in general about how we are perceived by others, at least in terms of physicality.
Changing The Conversation
Ngaire Moyes, a spokesperson at LinkedIn, made a statement after the study had been released, declaring that it was deeply disheartening to find such a major workplace bias. Though, Moyes quickly added, popular plus size bloggers are working to change that bias.
Stephanie Yeboah put out a press release in which she described the prejudice she faces on an almost daily basis exclusively due to her weight. She stressed that she wants everyone to feel confident in their body, regardless of how they look, or where they might rank on the BMI. In her view, hard work should be rewarded, and body image should have nothing to do with the pay given for that hard work.