Make-up and Money

Does wearing make-up mean more zeros on your paycheck?

Achieving a seamlessly blended smoky eye or perfectly fitting foundation can be tricky. If your coworker’s eye liner is more even than yours, does that mean they are getting paid more? As we continuously push for equal rights in the workplace, this tidbit seems overtly superficial. Let’s check out some facts…

First, we differentiate between attractiveness and grooming:

  • Attractiveness is boils down to how appealing or alluring an individual is.
  • Grooming relates specifically to how clean, well dressed, and “put together” an individual looks.

In 2016, a long term study was published that dug deeper in the pay differences between attractive vs. unattractive and well-groomed vs. not-so well-groomed individuals. Conducted by two sociologists, Jaclyn Wong of the University of Chicago and Andrew Penner of the University of California at Irvine, the study found that among 14,000 participants, attractive workers earn roughly 20% more than average looking workers. This is solely based on attractiveness. Let’s turn to the grooming differences.

If we think of the average woman’s grooming routine (hair styling, lipstick smearing, foundation dabbing, blush brushing, perfume spritzing, bra clipping, heel slipping, dress zipping, stocking pulling, etc.), there are more steps than the average man’s grooming routine (shower, maybe shave, tie shoes and maybe tie, button shirt, zip-up pants). Comparing the two morning routines, one looks much less labor intensive than the other.

In the end, is it all worth it for a woman to go the extra mile in polishing herself?

Well, if it’s money she’s after, the answer is apparently yes. Penner and Wong’s study showed that the “average-looking, well-groomed woman” earns around $6,000 more annually than the “average-looking, averagely groomed woman.” Nicely groomed men vs. not-so groomed men have little to no variation on their pay levels.

But what about other aspects associated with grooming?

In 2011, Procter & Gamble, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston University, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute funded a study that found women wearing make-up scored higher in other’s perceptions of thier competence and trustworthiness compared to women without make-up. Perception of professionalism seems to be impacted by make-up also. To quote a study in the London Times, “64 percent of directors said that women who wore make-up looked more professional.”

The truth is, trustworthiness, competence, and professionalism come in people of all styles.

While we all know that we shouldn’t judge a book by its’ cover, the truth is apparent once again; perception is reality.  Make-up or no make-up, a woman should have the right to express herself authentically without being deemed less competent or professional. That being said, we owe it to each other to check in with ourselves on what is driving our perceptions. Likewise, we owe it to ourselves to be prepared to rise above the perceptions of others that may be less than fair.