Why average-looking women are better than Supermodels



SUPPOSE you’re down with only two candidates in your shortlist for the vacancy of a high-paying job as manager of a company’s sales and marketing department, both of them women.

Julie is a look-alike of American actress Scarlett Johansson. Standing 5’7 tall, she exudes more than a pleasing personality. The other candidate is Marilen, an older version of a TV talent search winner who appears from all angles as an average-looking woman at 5’3. Both candidates have an almost equal number of years of work experience and college education, except that Marilen has an added MBA from a local university. Julie makes up for her lack of a post-graduate credential with her good looks. So, it’s a choice between Julie and Marilen. Who would you pick for the vacant job?

I bet you’d choose Julie. And I can’t blame you.

In sales and marketing, you need attractive people to help promote your products or services. But if you need someone to manage a back-end operation, or the safety and security department, or the janitorial service, then you might go for Marilen.

That’s what the experts would tell you. For one, University of Chicago professor Dario Maestripieri, in his article in Psychology Today on “The Truth About Why Beautiful People Are More Successful,” says that “attractive people, both men and women, earn an average of 3 or 4 percent more than people with below-average looks, which adds up to a significant amount of money over a lifetime.

“Beautiful people are also hired sooner, get promotions more quickly, are higher-ranking in their companies (a study found the CEOs of larger and more successful companies are rated as being more physically attractive than the CEOs of smaller companies), and get all kinds of extra benefits and perks on the job, including, perhaps, more free tickets to fly in first or business class.”

Professor Maestripieri cites the work of an equally eminent professor, Daniel Hamermesh, an economist at the University of Texas in Austin, who wrote the 2011 book “Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People are More Successful.”

Indeed, since time immemorial, there were many studies suggesting that when people make a decision, it is often based on the physical attractiveness of a person. No doubt about it. Physical beauty is one of the main factors that could tilt the individual’s decisions on selecting people they want to deal with or want to know better at a later stage of the relationship, whether it is romantically or professionally.

This reminds me – when the world was young, I happened to work for one commercial bank that gave me many opportunities to learn amusing things on how psychology could be used to attract and retain clients. That included the female tellers being assigned in only two interesting job functions – beautiful ones were assigned to handle deposits, while the not-so beautiful ones were tasked to manage only withdrawals.

Those were the days when multi-tasking was not yet in vogue.

About three years ago, I was reminded of that same situation when I applied for an insurance claim for my vehicle that was involved in a minor traffic accident. And the woman who took care of my claim was none other than … someone who looked like Juana Change.

How about you? How would you describe the physical attractiveness (or unattractiveness) of your frontliners? Or if you’re a well-traveled person such as Professor Maestripieri, you’ll probably notice that, “passengers who sit in F/B (first or business) class seem better-looking than those sitting in Economy.”

In my recent trip to Japan, I noticed the same apparent distinction as well. Those seated in the business class were at least three beautiful women wearing designer clothes. And of course, there were good-looking guys as well, who, just like their female counterparts, looked like they were earning millions.

As I was seated in the economy section with a cramped leg room, sandwiched between two average, young-looking kababayan (compatriot) women who were both married to Japanese nationals based in Nagoya, I succeeded in having interesting conversations with the two (one at a time). One was surprisingly candid about her seven-year sexless marriage, while the other boasted about having her first child in a short span of two years of blissful conjugal relationship.

Wife “A” was a minimum wage earner who kept the bulk of her salary to herself, while Wife “B” appeared to be happy nursing her one-year old son despite her being a full-time housewife.

This situation brings us to the next question: What makes one happy?

Going back to our Julie-and-Marilen scenario mentioned earlier, the real issues that matter after the hiring process must shift to Julie’s performance. She’s attractive, but is she going to be an effective manager? If she proved to be both attractive and effective, how long would you expect her to stay in your employ? If she joined your company because of your attractive pay-and-perks package, then maybe, it would only be a matter of time before she got a higher offer from another employer. What then would you do next?

The answer now becomes a little clearer: It would be better to hire average-looking but intelligent women who are more than determined to prove their worth to your organization. I imagine that because they know they’re average looking, they would be motivated to work harder and prove themselves smart enough to get high pay and perks to get ahead of the supermodels around them.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn for his random thoughts on Elbonomics.


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