Tag Archives: appearance

Erotic capital revisited

P1020328Dr Catherine Hakim was the closing keynote speaker at the 4th international Delta Intercultural Academy Conference on Global Leadership Competence: Personal Qualities, Culture, Language held in Konstanz, Germany.

She was a sociologist at the LSE when she achieved a degree of notoriety with her book “Money Honey: The Power of Erotic Capital” which was published in 2011. I blogged about it at the time and that  blog has been one of my most popular so obviously of interest in the wider world.

She now works as Professorial Research Fellow at think tank Civitas Institute for the Study of Civil Society but still holds the same views.

She believes that just as we have Human Capital and Social Capital we also have Erotic Capital. This is a mixture of things including appearance, and charisma.

She quoted economist Daniel Hamermesh who  found that better looking managers earned more money and CEOs of large companies were more attractive than CEOs of smaller companies.

And companies that employed attractive people were more profitable. (Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People are More Successful by Daniel Hamermesh. Princeton University Press)

She pointed out that despite a world-wide recession people were still spending money on luxury items and in particular things which made people look good.

In a competitive job market appearance is important and people work hard at impression management because the social benefits of attractiveness are worth about 15% more pay.

Excluding the effect of IQ attractiveness is as good as having qualifications in many jobs.

She took some criticism from certain participants but stood her ground. “I’m a social scientist and just telling you how it is” she responded at one point.

And she’s not the only person to have researched in this area and found similar outcomes.

I liked her quote from Aristotle: “Beauty is the best letter of introduction”.

And she made her presentation without a Powerpoint in sight – a welcome change.

I first attended one of these conferences – dedicated to intercultural issues – with my colleague two years ago and we enjoyed it so much we resolved to return to this beautiful resort on the Bodensee (or Lake Constance).

It was another excellent conference – thank you Peter Franklin for organising it.

No Woman can ever be too Rich or too Thin

Whilst other women appears to be piling on weight, those who are lawyers, doctors and business leaders have actually lost weight.

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 this is not about how good-looking you are – which some women think is really important but which can lead to you being discriminated against – but how physically fit you look.

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.

My most read posts on Leadership & Management in 2011

As last year the competition is really hot out there with some great writers and experts but here are the figures from WordPress showing which of my posts you read the most.

My readers come mainly from the UK, USA, and Canada, followed by India, Oceania and Brazil.

In 5th spot was: Most people prefer male bosses. Despite all the posts I’ve written about getting women on board!

In 4th spot, but with the most comments, was: It doesn’t pay to be too nice This was number 1 by a big margin in 2010 so it’s obviously still struck a chord with you all.

In 3rd spot was: Is social media the key to small business marketing? Seen by many as the answer to their marketing problems but it won’t completely replace traditional methods.

In 2nd spot was: No-one ones to be rated as average This was prompted by the poor reactions people have to performance appraisal systems and my experience in implementing them.

And in top spot was: Erotic capital, boobs and Botox. Making the best of yourself Carol Hakim’s work has obviously struck a chord – or perhaps readers wanted a bit of spice to brighten up their day? A page 3 of the management blog!

So thanks for reading my posts and I hope you have a prosperous 2012

You’ll find posts on work psychology and other business-related psychology topics at EI4U


Cosmetic surgery part of staff retention policy

What can we offer you to renew your contract? Free language lessons? 5 weeks holiday? How about a free breast enhancement?

The New York Times reported that nurses in the Czech Republic were being offered such perks. One private sector nurse who opted for the cosmetic surgery had breast enhancement and liposuction, worth over £3,000, which she would never have been able to afford on her €1,000 a month salary – less than earned by a bus driver.

There is a severe shortage of 5,000 nurses in the Czech Republic as they are attracted to Germany, Austria, and the UK and an intensive care unit in Brno had to be shut recently because of staff shortages.

As a former soviet republic the Czech Republic doesn’t suffer from political correctness (as evidenced by the recent survey on same-sex relationships) and still enjoys beauty pageants. And it seems both sexes see these perks as no different from giving cars or expensive holidays.

Of course some people are up in arms. Womens’ rights activist such as Jirina Siklova, a gender studies expert and sociologist, argues that offering nurses breast implants turns them into prostitutes.

The managing director of the private clinic referred to above says there is nothing sexist about helping women look beautiful. After struggling to attract qualified nurses applications are up 10% since the plastic surgery offer (which includes tummy tucks and face lifts) in return for which the nurses sign a 3-year contract.

There are many women around the world who believe that being beautiful is important even though that sometimes leads to them being discriminated against.

The nurse who was described in the report said; “I feel better when I look in a mirror. We were always taught that if a nurse is nice, intelligent, loves her work, and looks attractive, then patients will recover faster.” NHS take note! And it adds a whole new dimension to the idea of personal development.

And as we know from an earlier post not all academics frown on women making the best of themselves. Catherine Hakim, also a sociologist, is quite clear that women should use their erotic capital where necessary.

Attractive women being discriminated against

by female recruiters! No sister act here.

Men might think that women have the advantage when job-seeking if they are attractive. Research from Israel, published by the Royal Economic Society, shows just the opposite in fact. Researchers sent out over 5,300 CVs for over 2,500 jobs. Two applications were sent for each vacancy – one with a photograph of either an attractive or plain person and an identical one without a photo.

Attractive women who sent in a photograph with their CVs were less likely to get an interview than plainer women who sent a photo and women who sent no photo at all.

For men it was the other way round. Attractive men who sent photos did better than the attractive women but plain men and those who didn’t send photos fared worse than their female counterparts. Statistically it means that an attractive male only needs to send out 5 CVs to get an interview compared with the 11 a plain-looking male needs to send. Attractive women would be better off not sending a photo as it reduces their chances of getting an interview by 20 – 30%.

The researchers at Ben-Gurion university said it was a case of “beauty discrimination” which reflected the double standards in company HR departments. They checked and found that 96% of the people who screened the CVs were female, typically 23 and 24 years old , and 70% of them were single. They theorised that these recruiters were jealous of any potential rivals in their workplace and rejected them instantly. There was less discrimination if the recruitment was being handled by an employment agency. Attractive women were no worse off than plain candidates and only slightly worse off than candidate who didn’t send a picture.

Professor Cary Cooper from Lancaster University Management School was more generous about the recruiters suggesting that unconsciously they might think that the less attractive women is the underdog and want to give her a chance. Nice thought Cary but what about the no-photo applications?

Sending photos with CVs is not common in the UK (unless applying for a job relating specifically to your appearance) but is in other parts of Europe. In Israel where the experiment was carried out it’s up to the individual. In Lithuania our colleagues who are recruiters tell us that young people often send inappropriate pictures with their CVs eg shots on a beach or other holiday locations.

Of course once you’ve got the job good looks seem to effect both men and women equally with unattractive people earning up to 15% less than their more attractive counterparts.

No country for grey-haired men

No country for grey-haired men In America it seems more and more men are seeking hair colouring since the recession.

Men of a certain age are trying to retain just enough grey hair to look distinguished but not so much that they look over the hill in the job stakes.

Over the last 10 years the number of men colouring their hair has doubled to 6% overall but risen to 10% for the  over 50s. Sales of DIY hair colouring have risen by the same amount.

First impressions are obviously … Read More

via EI 4u with permission

My most read business posts in 2010

Writing a business blog means that you are competing in a busy arena against some very big organisations and expert writers.

And everyone has an opinion about their company or boss don’t they?.

So it’s gratifying that so many of you have read my posts and also taken the trouble to add comments or e-mail me.

These were the most read of my posts in 2010.

No 5 (actually there were 4 sharing 4th spot)

Leaders, charisma and NVC

We had plenty of examples of leaders who were less than charismatic in 2010 but does it matter?

Female CEOs still trusted more than males

Whilst most people prefer to work for male bosses, even females, it  seems the recession has brought out the best in women CEOs.

PR=Protecting Reputations

And there were lots of reputations that needed protecting – just think BP!

Stressful Days are here again

A re-blog from EI4U where it was the second most read post. So unfortunately stress is back on the agenda. Resilient leadership needs to be the order of the day.

No 3: Leadership – the Dark Side

And talking of leadership – we all love reading about psychopaths but dealing with them at work is a different kettle of fish.

No 2: What kind of manager are you?

A bit of light-heartedness from the Chartered Management Institute but people like to know these things (but being compared with Posh Spice?).

And No 1 by a big margin: It doesn’t pay to be too nice

So no more Mr Nice Guy!

But best wishes to all of you for a happy and prosperous 2011

1, 2, or 3 buttons?

How buttoned up you are could influence your career prospects. Literally.

But many women know that already. Even if you have the brains using your “erotic capital” might give you a boost.

As a former city trader said; “do you want to get noticed or play safe?” in the Sunday Times article  (19/12/10) “Which button says I get promotion?”

On women’s shirts 3 buttons undone is too much but only one or two looks dowdy. It seems dress codes are back in style. And not just relating to cleavage but hemlines, collars, suit pockets and shoes. Swiss Bank UBS has produced on of the most detailed dress codes I have come across.

And this is a subject I have first hand knowledge of. Back when I was an HR Director I suggested that a female member of the team might want to wear something that wasn’t completely backless. (And I mean totally. From behind she looked like she was topless). I felt it didn’t reflect a professional image. My boss the CEO heard about it and his only comment was “good luck with that”. It was considered too delicate a topic to have an open discussion about (we eventually resolved it by getting all the staff to agree what was acceptable and what wasn’t).

So UBS has views not only about how to dress but also about personal hygiene eg sweaty feet, garlic breath and other aspects of grooming which they believe will improve performance at work. And the detail is truly awe-inspiring: heel height, number of buttons on jackets, when to button and when not to, colour of women’s underwear, lipstick, mascara and nail polish, hair style (mustn’t take more than 30 minutes to prepare each day) and perfume strength.

So is this “uniforms r us” and back to wearing ties and cuff-links for men? The recession might have brought an end to “dress down Fridays”. It seems managers are seeing a link between smart dress, a confident mindset and high performance. Will this approach filter down to other jobs? Do you really want to look different when redundancies are looming?

But however detailed your dress code and wherever you work the article suggests one definite “no-no” for men – never tuck your tie in your trousers.

Updated 5 July 2011: Harrods are being accused of having a too strict dress code about wearing make-up (this only applies to women as far as I know).

The Guardian (02/07/11) reported that it made one sales assistant in the HMV department so stressed she felt she was driven out of her job. The 24 year-old says she was sent home on two occasions and also sent to work in the stock room. HMV were supportive but Harrods became insistent.

She says she worked for 4 years without make-up and was described as one of the best employees by her manager and had received a commendation and excellent mystery shopper feedback.

She didn’t wear make-up at her interview and had no problems until senior managers doing a floor walk spotted her and sent her home for refusing to wear it. She was later summoned to a manager’s office where it was suggested she wore some makeup. She didn’t and continued at work for several more weeks until a new floor manager said that the girls had to be made up at which point she decided she couldn’t go through with more meetings with management and resigned.

The dress code requires women to wear full make-up at all times: base, blusher, full eyes (not too heavy), lipstick, lip liner and gloss, and to maintain this during the day. When she refused to wear make-up she was offered a make-up  workshop so she could see what she looked like.

Clearly she has worked there without make-up for several years and performed well. Dress codes have to be reasonable and you might expect them to be concerned with too much or inappropriate make-up.

Harrods insist she left of her own accord but equality lawyers are probably smacking their lips.

Never mind the quality feel the width

When it comes to impressing potential partners, size really does matter.

Research conducted for Brother Europe, when it was promoting its new A3 printer range across Europe, seems to prove that.

Professor Richard Wiseman, a leading human behaviour psychologist and author of; “:59 seconds. Think a little Change a lot”, carried out the research and he found that in “Dragons’ Den-style” pitch scenarios, businesses using A3 marketing materials appeared ‘significantly bigger, more successful and professional’ than those using standard A4 prints.

Moving from size to weight, in a paper published by researchers at MIT, Harvard and Yale universities; “Incidental haptic sensations influence social judgements and decisions” it appears that our sense of touch (the haptic impressions) also influences our thoughts.

They asked people to scrutinise a job candidate by looking at a resume placed on either heavy or light clipboards. The people using heavy clipboards viewed the candidate as possessing a more serious interest in the job and as more likely to succeed than those holding a light clipboard. They conclude that; “First impressions are liable to be influenced by one’s tactile environment”.

They say that understanding how the tactile environment influences perception could be relevant in; “almost any situation where you are trying to present information about yourself or attempting to influence people“.

My colleague and I have always advised candidates to use heavy-duty paper for their CVs and covering letters rather than 70/80 gm supermarket special photocopy paper. This was based on creating a good impression (because first impressions count) but now it seems it’s not just how good it looks but how heavy.

As the researchers say; “physical experiences are mentally tied to metaphors …. when you activate something physically it starts up the metaphor related to that experience in people’s heads” eg heavy = solid, reliable, serious, and so on.

And next time someone puts a clipboard into my hands ….

Leaders, Charisma, and NVC

As I’ve posted before in Body Language Watching Opportunities” watching politicians is always good for practising your skills at reading non-verbal communication (NVC). The recent UK elections and the subsequent election of a new leader for the labour party provided lots of contrasting examples.

And although Gordon Brown, for example, was regarded as a poor performer in this regard compared to Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, Blair and Obama’s falls from favour show that people do eventually see through the spin and the rhetoric (see “Being visionary is not enough”).

Ken Rea, a senior acting tutor from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, who also coaches senior executives, wrote an interesting piece for the Sunday Times on this topic putting Ed Milliband, the newly elected labour leader, under the spotlight: “Leaders must act like they mean it”.

He is quick to say that he doesn’t believe leaders should act their way through presentations – after all it takes 3 years to for students to learn how to control their voices, body and emotions – but by understanding techniques used by actors leaders could have the confidence to be more authentic and thereby gain credibility. Milliband’s recent conference speech was sincere but Rea says because it lacked passion – a criticism also levelled at Obama – it made him look lightweight and lacking in charisma.

He says charisma is about revealing your personality by widening your vocal range and projecting a positive and engaging body language – driven by your enthusiasm. (see also “Have you got charisma?”). Milliband needs to learn how to use NVC, particularly his eyes, as Rea doesn’t think they register emotion or show any enthusiasm. Rea also points out that audiences mirror what actors are doing. So if you are giving a flat performance, the audience will give you back what you deserve.

When I run presentation skills or impression management workshops one of the key elements is getting the presenters to look confident and visually connect with their audience. Having emotional intelligence is also important I believe. Having self-awareness, controlling your emotions, understanding what your audience is feeling and developing a relationship with them is the basic requirement of good leadership. As Rob Goffee said in a previous post; “It’s not all about charisma”.

FYI this is not the first time someone from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama has expressed opinions on this subject. In an earlier post “Leadership Panto” the “charisma queen”, voice coach Patsy Rodenburg, explained how people can be coached to be more effective presenters.

Back in September the Daily Telegraph ran a piece in their Science section explaining why they thought David Milliband would be the new leader of the labour party (I almost typed new labour party leader but that would never do in these post-Blair days). Asking; “Is he built to lead?” the authors, Anjana Ahuja & Mark van Vugt, argue that we always pick a chief who can “emote”.

They remind us that David M owes his place at Oxford to his gift of the gab rather than his academic achievements (rather overlooking the possible influence his father might have had) and received an unconditional offer – not for him the need for outstanding A-level results. In their book: “Why some people lead, Why others follow and why it matters” they say that leadership and followership behaviours are hard-wired from our past over 2 million years ago and that we still measure our leaders in the same way we would have done over 10,000 years ago when we first settled in communities.

So if you were fit and healthy you were a potential leader and being big and strong helped you settle disagreements. They point out that that still holds true; taller candidates beat shorter ones eg Obama v McCain and stronger looking CEOs run larger companies than weaker-looking ones. And we know tall men earn more and first impressions count at interviews. (See “Take me to your tall…leader”)

One of the authors was able to demonstrate experimentally how people could be influenced by their sense of belonging to a tribe to choose an incompetent leader over an incompetent one, and even choose a leader who had previously failed when they had a choice of someone who had previously succeeded! So perhaps Red Ed’s triumph over David M through the tribal support of the unions shouldn’t have been such a surprise after all.

They are not saying whether leaders are born or made, because we don’t know. But we do know that some inherited personality traits such as extraversion and verbal IQ are associated with leaders. Leaders tend to speak more fluently using more metaphors and are able to create an emotional connection. Tony Blair said that because Gordon Brown had zero emotional intelligence he couldn’t communicate to the electorate and we saw some examples of that before he decided to retire.

The authors concede that we are sometimes poor at selecting our leaders because we are influenced by their spin or their good looks rather than their expertise or principles. But they say we have also evolved ways of dethroning power grabbers and failing leaders, not least by gossip or ridicule. These days it seems we go for character assassination rather than the real thing. Machiavelli must be turning in his grave!

FYI Research at Columbia University compared power postures to low power, non-assertive postures. Power postures take up more space, like a peacock spreading its feathers, whilst subordinates want to take up less space.

The researchers found that those people asked to adopt power postures, even though they didn’t know why, had higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol. In other words they felt more powerful and less stressed out.

Tim Lambert, a colleague of mine who is a consultant and trainer and a former actor, coaches people into making use of their personal space to help them to be more assertive and influential.