Are You Paying a Tax on Your Appearance?

On the Personal Branding blog, Nance Rosen dropped a bombshell. Over your working lifetime, the average cost of being ugly is $230,000 out of your paycheck.

Daniel Hamermesh, a professor of economics at the University of Texas, Austin, has written a book, Beauty Pays, which reveals these startling statistics about the importance of appearance in the workplace:

  • Obese women earn about $14,000 less per year than their average-weight sisters, or about 12% if you are Caucasian and 7% if you are African-American. On the other hand, remarkably thin women earn $2,000 more each year than the average woman on the job.
  • Thin men’s salary averages $9,000 less per year than their average or big-boned brothers.
  • A six-foot tall man earns more than $5K more annually than a man who is five foot five.  Taller women earn 5-8% more than average women.
  • Blonde women earn $870 more on average than brunettes and redheads.  Sixty-three percent of bald men report earning less than guys with a full head of hair.

How to Improve Your Attractiveness

Some of these things are beyond our control, but what can we do to make ourselves more attractive and therefore more desirable?  Here are some of Nance’s suggestions, coupled with a few of my own:

  • Maintain good posture
  • If you’re a man, shave.  If you’re a woman, consider makeup in line with what is appropriate in your office culture.
  • Get a neat, face-framing haircut
  • Hide visible tattoos
  • Consider a regular manicure and teeth whitening
  • Invest in a few high-quality suits – dress up rather than down
  • Keep your shoes in excellent condition

Boost Your Self-Confidence

Of course, there is no substitute for self-confidence, which is what really makes attractive people shine.  Nance suggested creating a list of everything that makes you feel confident – the family and friends who adore you, the work that you excel at, and the skills, interests, qualities, beliefs and values you have that give you a sense of security, purpose and joy. Keep the list where you can see it, and add to it regularly!

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