Obesity affects job prospects for women, Australian study finding

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 2nd May 2012

Obese women are more likely to be discriminated against when applying for jobs and receive lower starting salaries than their non-overweight colleagues, a new study by Monash University, in Victoria, has found.

The study, published this week in the International Journal of Obesity, examined whether a recently developed measure of anti-fat prejudice, the universal measure of bias (UMB), predicted actual obesity job discrimination.

The research team also assessed whether people’s own body image, and dimensions of personality such as authoritarianism and social dominance orientation, were related to obesity discrimination.

Lead researcher, Dr Kerry O’Brien, said the nature of the study was initially concealed from the participants to avoid biased results.

Participants viewed a series of resumes that had a small photo of the supposed job applicant attached, and were asked to make ratings of the applicants’ suitability, starting salary and employability.

Dr O’Brien said, “We used pictures of women pre-and post-bariatric surgery, and varied whether participants saw a resume that had a picture of an obese female attached, or the same female but in a normal weight range having undergone bariatric surgery.

“We found that obesity discrimination was displayed across all selection criteria, such as starting salary, leadership potential, and likelihood of selection for the job.”

The higher a participant’s score on the UMB, the more likely they were to discriminate against obese candidates.

“Our findings show that there is a clear need to address obesity discrimination, particularly against females, who tend to bear the brunt of anti-fat prejudice,” Dr O’Brien said.