Lookism – Appearance and the Discrimination That Goes with It

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Human Resources Management

Executive Memorandum

To:
From:
Date: November 16, 2011
Re: Lookism – Appearance and the discrimination that goes with it

Lookism is a more and more pressing problem for companies and corporations, that strive to create an equal opportunities work space. The definition of lookism is “bias or discrimination against individuals on the basis of appearance, often unconscious.” This discrimination refers to both people who are not perceived as attractive and those who have to deal with the stereotypes connected to being exceptionally good-looking.

The business world should acknowledge this relatively new type of discrimination because it leaves companies vulnerable to a whole new field of lawsuits. Increasing awareness on the problem is the first step to be taken since lookism is mainly done unconsciously. Statistics provided by the EEOC show a considerable increase in lawsuits based on race, religion, sex, origin and age. Discrimination based on appearance is part of this increase, even though the correlation cannot be really seen. The report provides recent examples of lawsuits and their outcomes for the companies, which proves the problem is gaining popularity.

A lot of research has been made over the last decade or so all showing that lookism is an actual problem and some of the perceptions that are based on it. The results of the studies all show that attractive people receive preferential treatment, starting from school where unattractive kids are the subject of bulling, where as it has been proven that on average attractive children are evaluated higher. The report also discusses the implications of above and below average good-looking people in their social lives and how that affects them as employees.

Data presented from different researches and studies shows a more comprehensive insight on how familiar people are with the problem. Overall the materials show a low level of awareness of the problem among employees and support the theory that people both discriminate and at the same time are not completely conscious of the reason for making some of their decisions.

The report also explains the common stereotypes that are connected with beautiful people. A paradox is presented – if you are attractive you are considered to be smart, at the same time many women perceived as very beautiful are thought of as bubbleheads.

Lookism – Appearance and the discrimination that goes with it

Discrimination is a problem usually referred to when speaking of race, religion, sex, origin, age, etc., but lately discrimination based on how a person looks is becoming a more and more discussed topic. Lookism is defined as “bias or discrimination against individuals on the basis of appearance, often unconscious.” The association made by lookism is usually that people who do not fit in the box of conventional beauty, but it goes both ways because people who are perceived as extremely good-looking are discriminated as well. These prejudices pose a new challenge when a company tries to provide an equal opportunity workspace and an even bigger obstacle because most people do not realize that they discriminate on the basis of appearance.

There are numerous laws that try to ensure equal opportunities for all people, but the issue of appearance is not really a part of any of them. Companies and corporations are well aware of equal opportunities laws but even so the number of lawsuits has not decreased over the past two decades. On the contrary statistics show an increase of about 7% in discrimination lawsuits from 2009 to 2010 and an all overall 25% increase for the past decade. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 intends to protect people from discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin and religion, but does it help people who are not considered as conventionally beautiful and still discriminated against. A recent case that shows that the EEOC can help such people is...
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