Like it or not, beautiful women find it easier to succeed in business. Okay, attractive women and men find it easier to succeed. But looks have a far greater impact on a woman’s career.
Think about it. How many fat, ugly male CEOs are there? And how many fat, ugly female CEOs are there? Just compare poor old Whitey Basson (CEO, Shoprite) to the gorgeous Renee Silverstone (CEO, The Jupiter Drawing Room).
Righteous feminists will argue that looks have nothing to do with professional ability. They’re absolutely right of course, but they’re missing the point — looks empower a woman to use her professional ability. It’s a man’s world and that’s not going to change by showing how principled you are.
I’m not saying that stupid attractive women are more likely to be promoted. I’m saying that attractive intelligent women are more likely to be promoted.
It’s Darwinian and base, but people — men and women — take a well-groomed and shiny-haired woman more seriously than the one who wears T-shirts and shuns make-up. The latter may succeed via her intellect and skills, but she’s unlikely to be appointed CEO.
I have a friend who works for a prestigious private bank. The running joke is that they only hire former models with BCom degrees.
She freely admits that looking good has been helpful. Because while the men she works with are distracted by her long limbs and glossy mane, she’s making the company a lot of money and getting noticed by senior management.
I also know a skilled account manager who’s naturally a brunette, but says staying blonde makes it easier to deal with clients. Apparently they pay more attention to what she’s saying, which gets the job done faster.
That’s not using your looks — that’s using your brain.
Of course, it can cut both ways. I once had two female creative directors who were insecure about their fading looks and advancing age. They didn’t hire a promising young copywriter because they thought she was “too attractive”. The copywriter went on to be hired by another (mainly male) agency and do fantastic work.
Then there’s the problem of women who only get by on their looks. Without any real qualification except “people skills” and the ability to read a business management book, they usually end up doing well in PR or marketing (no wonder there’s a dearth of creativity in both fields).
That aside, there’s nothing wrong with a woman using her attractiveness, and her mind, to get ahead. Talent alone can take you very far, but if you really want to reach the top you’ll need a good hairdresser too.
*Amanda works in a sexist, shallow industry filled with pseudo-intellectuals and wannabe artists. She wears heels and a handkerchief when presenting to clients. That way they’re less likely to play with their BlackBerries.
(This originally appeared on Mail & Guardian’s www.thoughtleader.co.za)