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Pretty Privilege

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

How being #pretty can hurt your career, and what you can do about it.

#Pretty #Privilege, also known as a "#beauty #premium" is the principle that people who are deemed more attractive based on accepted societal beauty standards have the upper hand in the world and are afforded many more opportunities that others do not have. Essentially, it's #appearance-based #discrimination.

Because beauty is socially constructed, it can thrive off existing beauty standards that devalue individuals from #marginalized groups. Those who are Anglo-Saxon, have #blonde hair and blue-eyed, are thin, and are heterosexual are the individuals who typically benefit from a beauty premium, but this can differ based on countries, cultures, and social norms. While there is no defined global standard of beauty, there is a common understanding of what is considered beautiful by society.

The science of pretty privilege is called #Pulchronomics - the study of the economics of physical attractiveness. It brings to light and helps to quantify what being beautiful can do for you, and how it impacts society. Daniel Hamermesh's book, Beauty Pays, exposes the relationship between those deemed beautiful and how they rank in society.

Here are the facts:

  • Being beautiful can make getting a job easier.

  • Being beautiful can get you a higher income.

  • Being beautiful can make you more popular - thus, giving you more social capital.

  • It will help you find a more attractive house.

  • It will help you secure a better loan rate!

  • Being beautiful can earn you a lighter sentence if you are convicted of a crime!

When you are deemed "above average looking" you get above average pay. In fact, research shows that physically attractive people earn up to 15% more than those who are considered "less attractive." In Beauty Pays, Hamermesh used data from the 1970s to estimate that over the course of a lifetime, the average worker with above-average looks would earn 3-4% more totaling close to $230,000 over the course of a lifetime. (Kurtzleben.)

In 2013, a study showed that CEOs with more attractive faces had a better stock market performance during their first days on the job and also after mergers and acquisitions.

Other studies have shown that being skinny pays- when your BMI (Body Mass Index) goes down, your income comes up! A study completed by the University of Florida showed that for each additional inch in a worker's height, they earned an additional $790/year! That is WILD!

Many studies go into the WHY those with a beauty premium earn more pay, secure better loans, and can talk their way out of a ticket. It is thought that these individuals are shown more attention in childhood by their teachers (because they are cute kids), which over time instills confidence in them from a very young age.

The purpose here isn't to get into the WHY- but rather to explore the opposite of Pretty Privilege. What do we do when it backfires on you?

What the hell do I mean by that? How can being pretty, backfire?

Have you ever been invited to the table, but NOT a part of the #conversation?

Ever been offered the initial job, but constantly looked over for promotions because your ideas aren't really valued?

Ever posed a new concept at work, and shut down, only to have a man's SAME IDEA used?

Being pretty doesn't always pay. Yes, it can get you the job. Yes, you may be able to skirt your way out of a ticket- but when you have busted your ass too. get that job, and sit at the table, only to find that you were invited there because you are nice to look at is heartbreaking, frustrating, and downright dirty. So what can you do about it?

  • You have got to speak up for yourself. Yes, it is going to be uncomfortable. It is going to be a challenge. But if you do not do it, nothing is going to change. I'd recommend that if you are sitting at the table and you are talked over, or even flat out ignored, you have a 1:1 with the offending party. You have to let them know that "Hey - you may not have realized it, but you spoke over me at the meeting we had earlier. You dismissed my idea, and that wasn't cool." Sometimes, that is all it takes. Making the other person aware is the first step.

  • You also need an advocate that your offenders respect. This person can speak up for you when you aren't invited to the meetings, step up and say "Hey - we really should invite HER because she has the experience on this topic. Let us bring in the expert." They can shine the light on your ideas, and elevate you when you can't do it for yourself.

Now let me be clear- I am NOT going to NOT use pretty privilege to land a job or talk myself out of a ticket. I'm not above that. But I will use those powers for good. Help up those behind you. Educate those around you. Showcase what a badass you truly are! Use those pretty privilege powers for good!

Help others get from their NOW to their NEXT.

  1. Kurtzleben, D. (2014, June 2). Seven ways your looks affect your economic well-being. Vox. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from

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