Obese women are more likely to be discriminated against when applying for jobs and receive lower starting salaries than non-overweight colleagues, according to a study.
The research – led by the University of Manchester and Monash University, Melbourne, and published in the International Journal of Obesity – examined whether a measure of anti-fat prejudice, the universal measure of bias (UMB), predicted obesity job discrimination.
Lead researcher Dr Kerry O’Brien said the nature of the study was initially concealed from the participants to avoid biased results and simply advertised as a study on whether some people are better at personnel selection than others.
“Participants viewed a series of resumes that had a small photo of the job applicant attached and were asked to make ratings of the applicants’ suitability, starting salary and employability,” said Dr O’Brien. “We used pictures of women pre- and post-bariatric (weight loss) surgery, and varied whether participants saw either a resume, among many, that had a picture of an obese female attached, or the same female but in a normal weight range following bariatric surgery.
“We found that strong obesity discrimination was displayed across all job selection criteria.”
Dr O’Brien and co-authors Dr Janet Latner, from the University of Hawaii, and Dr Jackie Hunter, from Otago University, New Zealand, said the participants’ ratings of their own appearance and importance of physical appearance were also associated with obesity discrimination.
Dr O’Brien added: “One interpretation might be that we feel better about our own bodies if we compare ourselves and discriminate against ‘fat’ people.”