Women, Beauty, and Power
The U.S. is waking up to the accelerating shift in power between the sexes, with women steadily gaining the upper hand. In our changing society, beauty, fertility (or lack of it!) or money, hands the woman of 2020 a significant advantage in a broad spectrum of contexts.
Time in Europe the last couple of years has offered me a different lens of “what women want” and I promise you it is different from country to country and even rural to urban. Worldwide, there is no “today’s woman,” but there are pockets of fast changing cultures because of the transition of power that has begun. Obviously not every state in the U.S. embraces this change but about 2/3 of the nation does.
Man or woman, gay or straight, managing your communication with women, is absolutely critical if you want to play on a field where nature and current culture are converging.
Socially and economically, women are evolving at an increasingly rapid pace. Oprah, Michelle Obama, Hilary Clinton, Sheryl Sandberg, Ellen DeGeneres, Kylie Jenner – women of all kinds have established themselves as not simply employable but as bankable decision-makers. The fact is they are in the driver’s seat like never before. And we also know that globally, women account for $20 trillion in annual consumer spending, representing the majority of all consumer purchasing decisions, so it makes sense that most corporations are working overtime to target, reach and please women.
30 years ago, women made about 65 cents to the man’s dollar. Today, single women with no kids (SWINKS) out-earn men, and women entering the workplace today have significantly more power than men.
Ultimately, this is the only significant demographic. It’s a GROWING demographic in and around the world, and this one slice of the world will shift power around the globe, though in different ways from culture to culture.
40 years ago, women were just starting to catch up with men in educational degree attainment. Today, women get about 55% of all Bachelors Degrees. Education is Power and translates into dollars almost hand in hand.
Education to date has been a rock solid predictor of income.
Women in the U.S. and a few European countries have become “more like men,” in other ways, as well. 40 years ago, women reported having significantly fewer intimate relationships per year than men did. Now, women are just about even in number of intimate relationships as men.
40 years ago…well, you get the idea. Bob Dylan said, “The times they are a changin’….” and they really are. Constantly.
Today, if a woman wants a job, the probability is very high that she will have a job when she asks. Female unemployment in the USA is dramatically lower than male unemployment.
The Beauty Premium
As women culturally evolve, they have become more choosy in who they want as a permanent partner. Old rules are fading away as far as age, sex, race, etc.
The shoe is definitely moving toward the other foot. Interestingly, where wealthy men prefer younger women, powerful, wealthy women don’t necessarily prefer older men as they move beyond middle age. Gen X women are now often looking for Millennial Men and Millennial Men are now looking for Gen X women. But that’s not as interesting as ….the rest of the story…
There are different “types” of women, just as there are men. With men, height and hair pay off. So does education, status and prestige.
With women education, status and prestige pay off, but nothing pays off like beauty.
Beauty can even match fertility for pulling power. Beautiful older women who have lost the biological advantage of fertility are totally capable of attracting healthy, younger males, and often, these days, precisely because of their lack of ability to reproduce.
An AARP poll tells us that almost one-third of women between ages 40 and 69 are dating younger men (defined as 10 or more years younger).
Attractive women enjoy a net worth that is 11 times greater than the net worth of AVERAGE women. That’s eleven times.
The net worth of attractive women compared with unattractive women is daunting, approaching 100:1.
Attractive women are far more likely to get promoted and earn more money.
Working for men?
No. Men in the office treat the attractive woman far more equally than the other women in the office treat the same attractive woman.
Women recognize Alpha Females and they, too, know they are in the top 20% of desirability. Women in power positions hire and promote the attractive female.
Women consciously and non-consciously show strong preference to attractive women.
It starts early in life and is reinforced incrementally. From day one, attractive children are treated very differently than unattractive children. Just consider the self-confidence/entitlement compounding of that fact.
Talking about the “beauty premium”, Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics and Political Science in the UK and Mary Still of the University of Massachusetts in Boston conclude that workers who are more physically attractive are earning more, not necessarily by being more beautiful, but because they are healthier, more intelligent, and have better personality traits conducive to higher earnings. In other words, being attractive can help you create a more bankable personality and, it turns out, a more prosperous life course.
An obviously there are controllable factors here like weight management, physical health, education as well as factors that are tougher to control like how skin stretches over someone’s face to help or hinder the attractiveness formula.
Is Beauty required for Power?
Beauty is one of those things that stirs emotions about as deep as anything. People want, and in fact, on some levels, people NEED to be as beautiful as they possibly can be.
Wait a minute…need beauty?
Yes. People need beauty. It has survival value.
Take a step back for a minute and consider…
Studies consistently show that infants and children who are seen as unattractive are beaten and abused by their mothers far more often than their attractive counterparts.
We could stop there; but even after childhood, the challenges/benefits continue. The woman who is average or below average in appearance, that woman’s chances of ending up with a financially successful and attractive hubby by mid-life are greatly reduced. And what about after hubby bites the dust?
The research shows less attractive women end up with very little money in inheritance and accumulate almost no net worth, whether on their own from their own career, or received from their hubby in the will.
Smart women have discovered this and they are now taking control of their own destiny in regards to survival and wealth.
Why are Attractive Women Promoted to Power?
Attractive women have more positive personality characteristics ascribed to them by both men and women than any other demographic.
Attractive women get better grades from Kindergarten through University. How much of that is due to positive reinforcement from the first item?
It goes on and on. There’s a huge halo effect around physical attractiveness. From both men and women.
At the office, sexual desire is not something that is switched off. The non-conscious is the non-conscious. It doesn’t think, it just, does. This creates a lot of worlds colliding and dynamics. You see it play out in the press every day.
With increasing power, women now have the power to filter OUT unattractive men. Men compete not only for sales but for women. And women compete for sales and men. Men are having a much greater difficulty finding a mate than they ever have in the past. This also bleeds into the workplace.
When a man is unattractive compared to a woman he is interested in, there is usually going to be challenge. Behavior in the office, by a man, toward a woman, that is sexually suggestive, is generally considered harassment (in the U.S.) by women when the man is deemed unattractive.
Replicated research shows it is very unusual that attractive men are accused of harassment. Example: In studies where a woman is shown a picture of a man and then is told a story of what he would like to do, or he “touches” (or) “tries to boldly flirt” this has shown true. However, less attractive men performing the same behavior are noted as harassing the female employee.
The research reveals that for the attractive male, being suggestive is not typically seen as inappropriate or unwelcome.
This is a prime example of prototypicality. How could an attractive guy making suggestive comments to you ever be considered unwelcome…? Geeky Joe down in Purchasing, on the other hand…eew.
Legend Point: Like men, women’s thoughts are shaped and influenced by their identity and by the world’s perception of them.
In fact, women are sometimes MORE subject to bias and stereotyping against other women than men are. Harvard Business School graduates by Ely, Stone and Ammerman showed just 73% of men compared to 85% of women believed that “prioritizing family over work” was the number one barrier to women’s career advancement, even though the figures show that most women do not “abandon” or even seek to downshift their jobs or careers after having children, and continue to be employed.
There may be only two sexes, but…
There are Six “Worlds” Within the Two Sexes
Nothing I’m about to share feels fair. It just is what it is…
There are men and women and… There are the top (attractive) 1/6, the bottom (unattractive) 1/6, and a big 2/3 middle group.
The research (like all research in non-verbal communication) is frustrating because each person has different conscious and non-conscious “rules” for other people, and those rules are not consistent from person to person.
Women and men typically think very differently about the attractive and unattractive.
Men and women make decisions about right and wrong through their own lenses that extend beyond male and female.
Consider four of the six types of people.
- Attractive males
- Unattractive males
- Attractive females
- Unattractive females
One study by East Carolina University’s Wuensch & Moore, stands out in my mind as more revealing of how women think differently than men, and how women might use their power, than any other I’ve seen.
If you really want to know just how judgmental people are where looks are concerned, and how critically important and powerful physical appearance is, let’s head off to the courtroom.
The Mock Juror Study
324 people served as mock jurors in slightly differing versions of a simulated civil case in which a male plaintiff accused a female defendant of sexual harassment.
The researchers at East Carolina University experimentally manipulated the physical attractiveness of the two individuals. (Both the accuser and the accused.)
This same story was told to each of the 324 mock jurors:
In the plaintiff’s testimony, he explained that in the 3 years that he had been working for the defendant as an assistant manager of her apartment complex, her harassing behaviors had escalated. Initially, she made inappropriate and unwanted remarks about his clothing and physique…She tried to touch and caress his body. When he objected to these behaviors, she told him that he must have liked it or he would have already left to find employment elsewhere. He alleged that in recent months, she tried to put her hand under his clothing, chased him around the office trying to kiss him and repeatedly tried to fondle his buttocks and…She went so far as to describe to him the sexual acts in which she desired to engage him….And the female employer completely denied any of this took place indicating they had a cool but pleasant working relationship.
The only difference presented to the mock jurors was the attractiveness of the plaintiff and the defendant. …and the gender of the Jurors…everything else was identical.
The woman was found guilty 77% of the time if the man was attractive.
The woman was found guilty 63% of the time if the man was unattractive.
That’s massive. Imagine what that means in real life.
Legend Point: You and I profile people based on how they look. Often times, the profiling is correct (and sensible). Sometimes it’s dead wrong. Just like the paranoid conspiracy theorist is occasionally right and they ARE out to get him, the odds are that a small percentage of the time a stereotype falls true. Rest of the time nope.
Verdict by Gender and Level of Attractiveness
How did the vote break down by the gender of the jurors?
Women voted the accused woman guilty 74% of the time.
Men voted the woman guilty 66% of the time.
Did you think women Jurors would let off the woman because they identified with her as a woman? Apparently not.
Here’s where the revelations are Biblical in proportion.
When the woman (The Employer) is perceived as UNattractive what happens?
Women Jurors voted guilty 85% of the time if the man was attractive.
Women Jurors voted guilty 58% of the time in the man was UNattractive.
In other words:
Two unattractive people?
Harassment is much less likely in the eyes of a woman.
If the employed man is attractive and not the woman, she IS GUILTY.
Clearly, 58% women Jurors were prepared to bury the manipulative unattractive woman harassing the nice but pitiful unattractive man. But they voted her guilty much more often when the man was good looking. After all, why would a woman harass an unattractive man? It doesn’t “fit” in the female mind.
The Female Jurors may have felt the unattractive woman tried to use her position of power to acquire the attractive male. And they simply didn’t wholeheartedly buy into the attractive female employer chasing the unattractive guy around the office for three years.
How did Male Jurors vote overall when the woman was unattractive?
The attractive male? She was voted guilty 63% of the time. (vs. 85% for Women Jurors)
The unattractive male? She was voted guilty 68% of the time. (vs. 58% for Women Jurors)
Something is not quite right here of course.
Men voted the female employer guilty regardless of the attractiveness of the man.
Women did the opposite. Women know women better than men know women and you can now get that women are a tough crowd!
Is it that women have better insights into other women’s minds? Do women already know that women don’t go after/harass unattractive men? Do women already know that attractive men are The Target and thus the certain guilty verdict of the unattractive woman?
For whatever reason, women voted with CERTAINTY that the unattractive woman was guilty if the man was attractive.
And When the guy was not good looking?
Men significantly more than women voted the female boss guilty.
There was no statistical difference in guilty verdicts from the men. They either bought the guy’s story or didn’t almost equally.
How did Male Jurors vote overall when the woman (accused) was attractive?
78% voted her guilty when the man was attractive.
56% voted her guilty when the man was unattractive.
Now the tide shifts. Male Jurors don’t see the attractive woman chasing the goofy looking guy around the office for three years. They easily saw her as guilty when he was attractive.
Here we have a big schism in the male thinking just as we observed with female thinking. Male Jurors didn’t buy the story wholeheartedly if they guy was unattractive.
When the defendant (The Accused Woman) was attractive and the Accusing Male was unattractive?Women Jurors voted guilty 85% of the time.
Men Jurors voted guilty 68% of the time.
Here you observe a big difference between men and women analyzing the situation. Women dramatically bought into the man’s story, men did to a much lesser extent.
When both the defendant and plaintiff were unattractive?
Women voted guilty 58% of the time.
Men voted guilty 63% of the time.
When both the defendant and plaintiff were attractive?
Women voted guilty 78% of the time.
Men voted guilty 78% of the time.
Legend Point: Both sexes judged identically when both parties were good looking. They figured she did it.
In sum, the jurors sided with the attractive male plaintiff a lot more often.
All the research bares this out: Jurors tend to not believe an employer would harass the UNattractive person of the opposite sex.
In this research, the only and entire credibility of the story goes to the photographs of the defendant and plaintiff. That’s it. There were no other differences.
Only their own personal experiences, beliefs and the visual image of the photos connected with the story.
The differences in the decision of guilt was significantly biased by the attractiveness of the individuals. The good looking woman did it to the good looking guy.
What Happens in Real Juries?
In real courts, an attractive man convicted of rape tends to get a lighter sentence than an unattractive man.
Perhaps (probably) the intuitive thoughts of the jurors are “Maybe he is guilty but he can have whatever he wants, so maybe he didn’t do it…go easy…”
Much like the notion that there are no ugly con men, the profile is that there are few attractive rapists in courts.
If the female victim is attractive, the man in rape cases is more likely to be convicted of the crime.
Perhaps the intuitive thoughts of the jurors are, “She’s beautiful, so maybe it makes sense that the loser would rape her. Put him away.”
(Those are pretty good guesses, and the research all but says that.)
Previous research revealed that the stated reasons in studies about why attractive men in the real world are much less likely to be convicted of sexual harassment come down to four reasons:
a) The man is attractive, he doesn’t need to sexually harass. He can get sex anytime he wants it.
b) Sexual advances by attractive men are unlikely to be taken as harassing by the woman.
c) Men won’t harass unattractive women.
d) An unattractive woman is unlikely to believe an advance is harassing.
To be clear, that’s what the stated reasons were shown to be, not my opinion.
Returning to the East Carolina University Study where the accused in the scenario was always a woman employer and the accuser was always a male employee…
Another recent study by Swami, Arthey and Furnham at Anglia Ruskin University in England discovered that attractive defendants were perceived as guiltier and deserving of more severe punishments when serious transgressions vs. minor transgressions were presented, concluding that a reverse attribution bias exists, where attractive individuals are judged more negatively when they fail to live up to higher standards of conduct.
By the way, when you throw Juror attractiveness into the mix, it gets even more complicated. In a study by Devon and Jeffers, we see that the most attractive defendants were convicted less, punished less severely and found less responsible for the charges being brought, but there was a significant bias when judging others with similar attributes. Attractive “jurors” were harshest on unattractive defendants, while unattractive subjects were harshest on moderately attractive defendants.
It’s quite the matrix to work through when you’re playing strategy at Jury Selection time.
What’s so uncanny is that the Carolina University study was done with an identical story but differing photographs. There were no behavioral or situational nuances. This was all about what differences were ticking inside of the men and women as jurors.
Are Women More Judgmental?
So, does this mean women are more “judgmental” of women? And just as subject to the beauty bias as men are?
It isn’t absolutely proven by this research, but if push came to shove, you’d have to say that was generally the case. Bias towards beautiful women is generally perceived as being a male characteristic, whereas female-on-female bias regarding BOTH POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE attributes is far more likely. As a woman, SHE will probably think you are way BETTER or way WORSE than you actually are.
There are many conclusions but here’s the best take away for friends in business. Stay on top of your game as far as weight and physical appearance. It might make you a lot more money and save you a lot of grief in life at the same time.
Reserve your spot now!
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