While our culture has evolved, women in business are often still judged based on their conformity to acceptable standards of beauty. Most often this standard is extremely high and unattainable. In most cases, this standard is ever changing. A Dove survey of 1,027 women between the ages of 18-64 found out that most women in business take their beauty cues from the public domain. The second most powerful source of beauty cues were the social media at 25%. This influence isn’t always positive. 78% of those surveyed felt that the portrayal of women in social media is unrealistic while 82 percent believed that social media impacts prevailing standards of beauty.
The Rise of Alpha Females
The modern age has produced a legion of alpha females in business who are powerful, empowered, educated and professionally successful. This has played into the stereotype that for women to succeed in the business sector, she has to possess masculine skills. This may seem like a good thing but in a culture where only a few women attain considerable power and control not all women can be alpha females. There’s pressure to act a certain way or to live up to the set idea of beauty. Lots of women in business have had to take a certain professional posture of domination to succeed which is burdening. Physical appearance and prettiness should be a confidence booster, for women no matter their size, skin color, or shape.
Still, by far, the most common stereotype held against women in the public domain is the proverbial hourglass figure. Even in the business sector where competencies are supposed to trump lookism women are still judged based on their dress, figure, perfect nails, hair and pretty faces. The truth is, not all women can fit into a single definition of beauty. The Barbie model used as the standard for women does not even represent a simple majority of the female gender. Good looking women tend to be given more access, viewed as smarter, nicer and more engaging than their not-so-pretty counterparts. This often influences promotions and opportunities given to specific staff members in corporate circles.
The Impact of Social Media
A study of 4,294 television commercials revealed that 1 out of every 3.8 commercials has an overt and often covert “attractiveness message,” telling viewers what is or is not considered beautiful or attractive.” The media’s glamorization of thin as the ideal weight and that only certain dressing are what is considered formal and decent sets the grounds for sexism and even harassment in the business sector. Unfortunately, there are very few spaces where the impact of this elusive definition of beauty is tackled. Women are held to higher standard of attractiveness and beauty while their male counterparts can be left off the hook even when they are sloppy.
Treating women based on their conformity to certain beauty standards in the business world sets a precedent for failure and conflict. There’s no doubt that a vast majority of women’s confidence is dented by their sense of dissatisfaction with their appearance. Childbirth, stressors, blemishes, aging, and weight gain alters a woman’s body significantly. The ugly truth is that society’s definition of physical beauty excludes most women and essentially caters to a small clique of gorgeous women. This makes women who are ambitious, talented and strong but don’t fit the standards models of beauty to be locked out and denied rightfully deserved opportunities. One firm that takes this issue seriously is cosmetics distributor, lipsense who offer women opportunities not only to use their cutting edge product but also to get extra dollars by becoming independent distributors.
Trashing These Standards
In 2014 alone close to 5 million disparaging tweets about beauty were written by women. Despite the negative beauty stereotypes women still continue to excel. In the US women-owned about 10.4 million businesses which are about 40% or 2 in every five business. All those tweets were about themselves. If women are going to advance in the corporate world, then it’s critical that we begin to dismantle these unrealistic notions of beauty. We have to acknowledge their unfair impact on women’s performance in the business sector.
By: Kevin Faber