Performance Doesn’t Matter: Women must still sell attractiveness


Right?  The title of this post is a true statement.  A woman can be a great performer, but she still needs to be attractive to find high success.  This is a parameter for her male peers.  Her male peer can come in with a beer belly and stain on his tie and no one cares. No one!  That same performing lady comes in with a beer belly and stain on her tie, and well, that’s might be a little weird, but you get my point.  She has to sell not only is she great performer, but she looks good doing it!

I grew up with an attractive mother.  Don’t get creepy.  I didn’t think she was attractive, she was my Mom, but I constantly had people tell me, “you’re Mom is attractive”.  Which to this day I’m not really sure on how to respond, but with “thanks, she owes it all to the easy childbirth I put her through”.  She was also a very successful business woman.  But she would be the first to tell you, these things weren’t mutually exclusive.  She always had to have her ‘A’ game on both in business and with her looks.

Oh, but Tim that was the 1970’s and 80’s, today that isn’t the case.

Is it ladies? Do you feel like your attractiveness plays no role in your perceived performance?

I can take a look at my own workforce.  Some of the guys role in here looking like they took all of 10 minutes to get ready and find the cleanest smelling shirt.  The females who work for me carry around ‘toolboxes’ of beauty products and always, I mean always, are put together.  I don’t ask or demand this, but some how there is a perceived culture which makes this seem appropriate.

I’m sure there is a bit of competition going on.  The ladies like to look good, especially when the other ladies in the office look good, and it starts a vicious little game to who’s more beautiful.   Doesn’t matter if you’re married or single, young or old, almost all play the game.  Guys don’t play this game.  Guys play other games, just not the ‘I’m prettier than you’ game.   This still doesn’t speak to why in our culture we expect both great performance and good looking when it comes to female performance.

You then have that big stereotype of the pretty woman who doesn’t perform, but still keeps her job.  This is the traditional stereotype of women and performance.  Oh, Mary is an idiot, but she’s beautiful so they’ll never let her go.  I don’t think this happens as much, but I’m also not naive enough to not think it still has some impact.  Pretty women will always get more chances to screw up, than a less attractive woman.  Always.  Not fair, but true.

Guys, especially those in leadership, will never bring this up.  It’s a taboo subject. Being in HR I’m always amazed that the ones who will bring up this subject more than anyone are other female leaders.  Guys won’t touch performance and attractiveness with 10 foot pool, but the ladies will!  Female executives are some of the first ones who will speak about another female employee in the context of ‘she’s a good performer, but she holy smokes she’s a troll’ and then walk away like it’s completely normal!

So, I ask you female readers, do you feel your looks play a role in your perceived performance at work?




9 thoughts on “Performance Doesn’t Matter: Women must still sell attractiveness

  1. 1. This is real;

    2. I have experienced this;

    3. I have yet to meet a successful, attractive and incompetent employee who is supported by women in management; in my experience, whether she is or is not incompetent, all a woman needs in an office setting to receive this type of discriminating action is average looks, a thin/trim/athletic figure and a pleasant disposition. Incompetent or not, she will lose her job or be made to feel so insecure th t what she does that she will leave.

  2. I’m not naive, I’m realistic. I have a Masters Degree and lots of experience. Congrats on your presidency your moving up I hope its not based on your good looks. My point is that in this day and age with internet you should be more aware of things. Are you an attractive man? Do attractive men do better than non-attractive men?

  3. Everyone is attractive to someone. The fact that you are a VP recruiting firm is a little scary. Reading these articles makes me thankful to be an employer who hired me based on my experience and capabilities not my looks. I hope no one that works for you reads your blogs or if that do that they have the gall to file a complaint. THINK BEFORE YOU WRITE, Happy 25th Anniversary to the Internet!!!

    • Actually Sara, I’ve been promoted to President, and my entire staff reads the blog daily. And they think this post has merit. I’m not saying I hire based on attractiveness, I’m saying if you don’t think it’s a factor you’re naive.

  4. I saw something on tv a few years ago where a male manager commented that when interviewing he judged women who didn’t wear/use make up to be not making an effort.

    How you present yourself is still a factor as it affects how people react to you, and that will have a long term impact.

    That is the same for both men and women, but there is more of a “code” or uniform for men.

  5. For the most part, I have to agree that attractiveness does play a part in success, but it’s a double edge sword. You have to find a balance. There are completely separate standards held for men and women. Women have to look put together and work just as hard, if not harder to succeed. I’m attractive, petite and don’t look my age. So I feel I always have to have my “A” game when it comes to first impressions so that people take me seriously. I have great work ethics and it’s gotten around within my community, but I can never for a second allow myself to become complacent.

  6. Oooh something to get my opinions flying on a Monday morning! So I’m not sold 100% on any stance on this, but I will say in previous positions I felt like my looks were held against me. I was just a pretty face and not taken seriously for a long time. I had to work extra hard to overcome the pretty face syndrome. It wasn’t my fault, I wasn’t overdoing it with the beauty tools or anything crazy, but the owner of the company and my manager would always say “I wish Kristina would do sales, she has the look for sales.” Seeing that I worked with a bunch of women and no one was saying that about the other women I worked with it put me in a weird position. Fast forward to my current job in the corporate setting, I can’t help, but notice the women in high roles are attractive and if not attractive at least very well put together… every. single. day.
    On the other hand I think it comes back to the environment. I hired for a steel company years ago and anytime they were looking for someone to work in the office where the guys on the floor would see her fairly often they would specifically ask for an uggo. It would always catch me off guard, but they assumed if it wasn’t an attractive lady that the employees wouldn’t be distracted.

  7. I think it’s part of the package. Women who are attractive have to work harder I think to be taken seriously.

  8. I’m not sure I agree,
    Speaking as an employer I have hired women on multiple occasions ALWAYS based on their ability to complete the job required I would also NEVER promote someone based op on their looks, after all why would anyone risk the stability of their company on a “pretty face”.
    In one aspect you point does stand and that’s sales, Attractive sales women (and men) tend to close sales more often than us plain faced few but even so if I was looking to internally hire a sales manager and had an attractive sales woman selling 50 services a day and a plain sales woman selling 20 services a day I would still promote based on experience and proven ability to fill the new role..
    This is an interesting topic, I look forward to seeing the other opinions.

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