The National Obesity Observatory, an organisation set up in 2007 to monitor the obesity epidemic, found that these were the only groups of women to lose weight in the last 15 years.
In contrast men in similar occupations actually put on weight with 20% being classed as obese in 2008.
There is a perception that women are judged not just on their work performance but on their appearance too, and particularly if they are overweight.
It seems that to get promoted women have to have an “executive presence” which means being slim and toned according to the New York-based Centre for Talent Innovation.
There is some evidence to support that view. Researchers in the UK and Australia asked students to assess the leadership potential of six fat and six thin women with identical educational backgrounds. The fat women were rated poorer than the thin ones.
However Heather Jackson, of the Women’s Business Forum, doesn’t believe it is a gender issue. She points out that among FTSE100 leaders the best ones are not obese because you have to be fit and healthy to be an effective leader.
So it seems Wallis Simpson was right: “No woman can ever be too rich or too thin”. It seems those two attributes go hand in hand for modern, well-paid, business leaders.