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Monday, May 23, 2016

Lookin’ Good ...

Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell found the political water a little too hot this past week. In attempting to assail Donald Trump and his preference for attractive women, Big Ed said, “There are probably more ugly women in America than attractive women. People take that stuff personally.”

Yes, they do, Ed. Shortly thereafter, Ed realized his boo boo. And he apologized. With gusto.

His words.“What I said was incredibly stupid and insensitive. When I read it in the article, I said, ‘Did I say that?’ It was just dumb, and stupid, and insensitive, and if I offended anyone, I apologize.”

Truth be told, looks matter. Especially in the workplace. Details can be found in this story from the Washington Post this week: The real reason that so many women have to spend so much time getting ready. It’s written by Ana Swanson.

Ana, the Post reporter, chronicles her daily routine of applying makeup and skin care products. She claims that 27 of her female associates apply an average of five products on their face daily. And they keep two extra pair of shoes at the office. And the guys? Not so much.

The impetus for her interest is a recently published paper from two sociologists studying the correlation between good looks and income. Their research concluded the good lookers earn more. And all the make up, styling, and clothing “accounted for nearly all of the salary differences for women of varying attractiveness.”

Ms. Swanson points out that previous studies prove that “hotties” in school get high grades and are more popular. Duh. Shorter prison sentences are given to the more appealing in appearance. And the eye candy among us are more likely to be hired, promoted, and get paid more in the workplace. The research revealed that people rated as more attractive earned about 20 percent more than the average Joe. Or Jane.

Now there is a bit of interesting contrarian behavior in the looks department. Previous studies would indicate that attractiveness was “consistently an advantage for men in the workplace, but was an advantage for women only when they sought a non managerial position. Interpret that for whatever it’s worth.

The two researchers apparently wanted to also determine what constituted being attractive. Beyond those who seem to be born with knock out qualities, can you actually step up your game and change perceptions? They discovered that most of the attractiveness advantage for women came from being well groomed. For men, good grooming only added half the effect on attractiveness.

The conclusions to be drawn from this are that it does pay women to primp and style. It gives them an advantage in the workplace. For men, it seems less important to invest in trying to look suave and debonair. Whatever that is.

I have my own anecdotal perspectives on this. Given the choice between two similarly competent people, the better looking candidate will get the job most often. Similarly, out of shape candidates start the process on the downside. They will have to overcome their condition in other ways.

Is it discrimination? Yup. Was that a surprise? It shouldn’t be. Even the best among us has preferences we don’t care to admit.

Sadly, this is the way many African Americans and other minorities feel when they enter the workplace. If the boss is a caucasian, the candidate must ask, “Am I starting at a disadvantage?” While not wanting to engage a lengthy review of so-called “white privilege,” my 64 years on earth have proven to me there’s some substance to this.

Decades ago, Janis Ian brought the world the disturbing song, At Seventeen. Probably unheard by many millennials. Lyrics were haunting. I’ll share them here:

I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear-skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired.
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth.


To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball.
It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
When dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me.

(excerpted from At Seventeen; Janis Ian Copyright )

Jesus of Nazareth was irresistible to people. It had nothing to do with looks. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2, NIV)

Instead, everyone was welcome in His circle. Regardless of looks. Or status. Or family background. Or race. Or whatever. Because people are who Jesus came to rescue.

Followers of Jesus should seek His style of evaluating others. Basically, it’s learning to love and respect others, the way we would like to be treated.

There’s a lot of gold in that rule.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app. 

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