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Sherry Buchanan

Appearance counts
with many managers


There is something downright undemocratic about judging managers' abilities on the color of their eyes, the size of their lips, the shape of their noses or the amount of their body fat. Yet looks looks matter a lot more in hiring and promotions than employers will admit to others, or even to themselves.

Airlines and police forces have long had height and/or weight requirements for their staff, arguing that being physically fit and strong -not too fat or too small- is in the interest of the public's safety.

In some cases, unhappy employees are challenging the arbitrary rules, which have been used by the airlines to recruit only good-looking women; in other cases, employers are trying to be fairer to avoid lawsuits.

Scotland Yard requires its male employees to be at least 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 meters) tall and female employees to be at least 5 feet 4 inches. The Yard decided to accept shorter women a few years ago to conform with Britain's equal-opportunity rules.

Air France still requires its female cabin crew to be between 1.58 meters and 1.78 meters, and men to be between 1.70 meters and 1.92 meters. They must also have a "harmonius silhouette." And British Airways grounds any member of its cabin crew -pilots excluded- if they are 20 per cent over the average weight fo their height.

Being short or overweight may affect people's careers in other industries in more subtle ways. "I used to do all my business on the phone when I was a manager in my twenties, because there I could command great authority," said Ilona Morgan of the Equal Opportunities Commission in Manchester, who is 5 feet tall.

Being too small and or overweight is only one way that looks can have an impact on someone's career. Academic Research at Edinburgh University, New York University and Utah, State Universíty shows that the better-looking a person is, the more positive qualities they are thought to have and the more positive impact that has in a career.

There is some evidence, however, that: women who are too attractive -unless they are television commentators or have other high-visibility jobs- do not rank well as managers.

There is enough research now to conclude that attractive women who aspire to managerial positions do not fare as well as women who may be less attractive," said Gerald Adams, a professor at Utah State University and an authority on the subject.

Some French employers and recruiters decide whether a manager is right for the job based upon looks. In some cases, morphopsychologists -a term coined by a French neuropsychiatrist in 1935- attempt to determine personality traits according to a job applicant's face, eyes, mouth, nose, ears and hands.

"Unfortunately, morphopsychology has become a criterion for recruitment in France," said Bruno Vincenti with the Centre des Jeunes Dirigeants in Paris, the French employers' organization. "When it is used as the sole criterion, it is a catastrophe".

"Some people hire you because of the color of your tie; why not the shape of your ears?" said Frederique Rollet, a psychotherapist in Paris who is the author of several books on morphopsychology.

Source: International Herald Tribune


looks matter: appearance is important (la apariencia tiene importancia)
: giving employment to someone (contrataciones de personal)
: movements to more important jobs, usually with more responsibility and money (promociones, ascensos)
employers: people that you work for (empleadores, patrones)
: demands (exige, demanda, requiere)
to be at least: to be as a minimum (tener como mínimo)

in my twenties: when I was about 25 years old (cuando yo tenía aproximadamente 25 años)
: the power to give orders (autoridad)
: the long-term plan for your professional life (carrera laboral)
: characteristics (cualidades, características)
do not rank well as
: are not well positioned as (no se posicionan bien como)
research: investigation (investigación, análisis de mercado)
applicant's face: the face of a person who applies for a job (rostro del postulante)