Abertay University in Dundee has published the findings of a new study, in which participants were asked to view a number of images of the same woman without make-up and one where she is wearing noticeable make-up. The images were digitally manipulated to alter the amount of make-up that can be seen in the photographs, and the participants were asked to compare the faces and choose which they felt to be a better leader.
Overall, the results showed that people judged heavily made-up women as having weaker leadership skills than those who were fresh-faced. Because, as we all know, a woman’s ability to do her job is directly related to her appearance, how much make-up she wears, when she gets her period, what shoes she wears and how she styles her hair. What’s the written equivalent of the face-palm emoji?
Dr Christopher Watkins, from Abertay’s division of psychology, suggested that women wearing make-up were seen as “more frivolous” and that “while the previous findings suggest that we are inclined to show some deference to a woman with a good-looking face, our new research suggests that make-up does not enhance a woman’s dominance by benefitting how we evaluate her in a leadership role". Ah, yes, the previous findings – ie the 400 other surveys that have, over the past few years, told us all sorts of helpful information regarding women’s role in the workplace and how make-up does, or does not, affect a woman’s chances of being hired, fired, promoted or just ignored.
Lest we forget that, in 2018 – despite everything – women are still scrutinised to the point that their appearance could affect their job. Just like men! Oh, wait…
In 2011, for example, a study by Harvard University found that women who did wear make-up to work were thought of as being more competent at their jobs and were, therefore, more likely to be promoted. Another survey, from 2013, reported that more than two-thirds of employers in Britain would be less likely to employ a female applicant if she didn’t wear make-up to the interview. There was also research in 2016 which suggested that women who are “well-groomed” earn more money. Confused yet?
Abertay graduates Esther James and Shauny Jenkins, the study’s researchers, said that the positive effects of make-up are limited to certain jobs, such as roles in hospitality and service, where “attractiveness to clientele may be more important”. Lest we forget that, in 2018 – despite everything – women are still scrutinised to the extent that their appearance could affect their job. Just like men! Oh, wait…
While the research simply shows that men and women’s attitudes to other women is heavily influenced by perceptions of appearance, it’s frustrating that such studies are continuously carried out. It’s almost like feeding the beast – the more we ask people how they feel about women in the workplace wearing make-up, the more it’s thought of as a legitimate question to be answered. In reality, what we should all be asking ourselves is why do we still care about what a woman looks like when she goes to work, or anywhere, for that matter? If people’s attitudes are ever going to change, it needs to be made clear that a woman’s clothes, make-up and hair have absolutely no bearing on her ability to do any job, whatsoever.