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Looking to progress in your career? Cleavage counts…

Equality in the workplace has come a long way over the past few generations, recruiters still respond to sexiness above skill

In a recent study conducted by the Paris-Sorbonne University, women flashing a little flesh were five times more likely to land their dream job, than more demure applicants.

The depressing study was carried out to determine the extent to which recruiters responded to applicants based on appearance, in preference to skills, experience and the quality of their CVs. In France, it’s common to attach a passport-sized photograph to job applications, and the university researchers carrying out the study used this to determine whether appearance swayed recruiters.

Over the course of the three-year research, the study created two fictional applicants whose skills, the quality of their CV, academic background and job experience were all of an equivalent calibre. Even the applicant’s faces were the same; two computer-generated females with identical hair and appearance.

The only factor differentiating the two fictional applicants was the amount of cleavage displayed on the photographs submitted for each role. One featured a high-cut, round-necked top, while the second had a lower-cut top which provided a hint of cleavage.

Over the three-year study, researchers at the university submitted over four hundred applications for each of their fictional job seekers. Half of the roles were for sales positions, while half targeted applications in accountancy positions. Within the sales category, the applicant with more revealing dress achieved 62 more offers of interview, while the accountancy roles generated 68 more offers.

The researchers undertaking the study were careful to ensure that the two fictional applicants were identical in terms of work experience, academic qualifications and the overall quality of applications submissions. The only discernible difference between the two female personas was the degree of cleavage revealed within their accompanying photograph.

These results are indicative of a persistent underlying sexism within the workplace, no matter how far female opportunities have progressed over recent years. Progress against sexism is primarily concerned with ensuring that wages are more equal across male and female employees, combatting the ‘glass ceiling’ disparity which sees women in even prominent executive positions achieving lower pay scales than their male colleagues.

However, this study indicates that there is more to sexism in the workplace than just gender disparity of pay scales, and in fact there could be a consistent underlying sexism governing decisions to recruit, based upon appearance alone.

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