Is lookism rampant is certain occupations (real estate, finance)?

Recently I had occasion to write these words in a post:

That got me to thinking about the dinner I recently attended which was for members of a real estate org. It was FULL of gorgeous women … mostly real estate sales reps. Which got me thinking … generally, younger people in real estate, finance and the more lucrative sales jobs (advertising sales for big firms, medical equipment sales, etc.) are quite attractive. And frequently female. Whenever I’ve heard “lookism” referenced, I’ve always assumed it was a selection bias thing … that is, no matter what the industry or profession, a person who’s more physically attractive has a better chance of being hired, all other things being equal, and often whether or not all other things are equal.

But is there also a systemic bias in some of the more lucrative professions for physical attractiveness? Maybe not enough to get you to the top, but to get your foot in the door, and give you a better chance of getting to the top? Does lookism work to waft attractive people wholesale, by profession rather than individually, toward the upper echelons of society? And what does this say about American society? That is, if we are rewarding our cheerleaders and athletes with higher pay and status than they might otherwise achieve, are we getting the kind of society we pay for … a generally dumb one, led by incompetents?

Obviously, this could be GD material, but I don’t have any strong opinions on the matter, and am more interested in exploring the ideas than in hotly debating the issue from one viewpoint or another, so I’ve place it here.

i’ve heard of many studies that better looking people get hired faster, paid better, promoted faster, etc.

i’d cite, but it’s pointless…it seems that there’s a new study on it that gets released every freaking week.

does it exist? of course it does. first thing you’ve gotta do is point the finger at yourself and ask if you are guilty of it or would be guilty of it in a given circumstance. and, of course, you’d hire the person with the best credentials, regardless of physical traits…but you’d probably use them for a tie breaker…and probably not even realize it.

I have worked in several different industries. It is true that there is an obvious difference in looks across different industries. I have worked in two well-known companies associated with fashion (shoe manufacturing and retailing). Those were at the top of the hierarchy for looks and it was plainly obvious to anyone walking into the lobby. Fiance has hotness too as you indicated. Sales is too broad a category. The general level of looks depend to type of sales. I have also worked in the supermarket industry and other distribution companies and the looks were more toned down.

I have two points however:

  1. All levels of looks were present in all of the industries I worked in.
  2. I always believed that it was self-selection bias and not discrimination that led better looking people to choose certain industries. Good looking people choose certain industries to work in and vice-versa.
  3. Certain careers like finance and sales require very competitive and focused people. These people are more likely to excercise and take care of their appearance through nice clothes etc.

There was a story in the NYTimes a few months ago about how it was a sort of a dirty little secret that pharmacutical companies only hired gorgeous reps to pitch MDs on their drug lines. The centerpiece of the article was a headhunting firm that trolled the ranks of ex-cheerleaders and beauty pagent entrants to find candidates for those drug rep spots.

It struck home for me, because I once semi-tried to woo a stunning Barbie Doll clone who worked as a drug company rep. She was not dumb, mind you, but not too bright either – certainly not bright enough for what I thought was a job that took considerable smarts. Now I know better.

I wonder if it’s as simple as: The beautiful people are also the popular people. By virtue of their being popular guidance/career counselors tell them, “You’re so good with people, you should go into sales.”

I don’t know about the Smith Barney chicks. The visual I get when I hear that name is John Houseman.

My sister used to work for a different company in the Conde Nast building in NYC. Apparently to work for them you have to look as if you could be on the cover of one of their magazines. I never felt frumpy in that elevator, no-o-o-o.

So what do you have against Greenspan? :dubious:

I do know about the Smith Barney chicks. I’ve seen them in their natural habitat. I don’t know what they do because I didn’t work in their offices, but I’m betting that if you consistently hire people with cheerleader-grade looks, you do it for a reason. Just like you hire people with good math skills and attention to detail as accountants, and people with strong language skills as editors.

This is exactly what I’m thinking. I mean, it’s always been the case that attractive women have venues for making money that other women don’t – modelling, stripping, acting for movies and on TV, etc – but if you add in the finance industry and high-end sales (and who knows, there may be others) you have a huge number of slots for making enough money to live very well indeed, that plainer folks don’t.

Other than the fact that he fell off the ugly tree and hit every single branch on it on the way down? Well, I also think he tends to consider the needs of the wealthy a lot more than the poor and the middle class in managing the economy. That is, he’s way too easily alarmed by wage inflation or tooo much job growth, but totally unconcerned by corporate growth.

but man does not live by reason.

This is an interesting discussion, because when we’re talking about looks, we’re talking about cultural preconceptions about who the beautiful people are. Or to put it more bluntly, lookism implies discrimination along racial lines, as well as, er… panty lines. Is it fair to say that in your Smith-Barney example, people of Northern European extraction were overrepresented?

While drug reps make a pretty decent living, especially for the younger ones straight out of college, that is really not high-end sales, they just put thousands of people in the Dr’s offices. Not to mention that it can be a soul-crushing experience and the burnout rate is extremely high.

Real high-end sales, like for medical equipment and enterprise software, is populated by people with high level skills, as they must deal with financial officers, legal departments, administrators, and end users, often all at the same time. Good looks alone won’t make you succeed at that job.

Eh, my dad was a pharm sales manager for years, for Sandoz (now Novartis, I think). I met all the salespeople he hired, and occasionally run into the guy who replaced him when my dad retired, and some of his salespeople.

Gorgeous, they ain’t. They’re reasonably pleasing to look at, and most of them have outgoing personalities, but not a one was a beauty pagent contestant or ex-cheerleader. Possibly an ex-mascot.

And I don’t recall the drug reps I’ve seen at doctors’ offices to have been exceptionally stunning, either.

as Lamar Mundane says, there’s too high of a turnover to make headhunting for new drug reps worthwhile.

On the rare occasions where I wear makeup to my waitressing job I get much better tips than normal. My female coworkers who get the best tips are the cute or beautiful girls who spend time on their appearance.

Let’s say you need to sell your $500,000 house.

You are presented with two possible real estate agents, both with good track records. One is stunning, around thirty, any straight American male would by a house from her just to sit across from her one more time at closing. The other has a great reputation, but is dowdy, in her fifties, and you suspect when she was thirty she had a “great personality.” You suspect the wife is the decision maker in most of those transactions.

Assume they both are intellegent. The stunning blonde is no dumb blonde.

When it comes to money, I’d hedge my bet. The man’s secondary brain might get me another couple grand from the house. The woman will negotiate with the dowdy agent and cost me a couple grand.

Now, if I can get someone smart and professionally polished - and my stunner is not bright enough to think on her feet, then I’ll go with smarts. But beautiful does not equal dumb. You can usually find beautiful and intellegent in the same package - and in sales - with charisma as part of the package - you’ve hit the trifecta.

I used to work in the investment/financial services world as a lowly admin asst. It was very common for the managers/partners/lawyers folks that ultimately made the hiring decisions to be aging male ex-jock-hunks who made it a deliberate “good old boy” contest with their contemporaries to hire and surround themselves the hottest young women possible. The financial world becomes very quickly an unashamed boys club once you reached a certain management level.

…just one sample perspective…

Why do you assume good looking people are automatically dumber and more incompetant?
There’s a bit of “lookism” in consulting as well. It’s a client facing business and while I wouldn’t describe myself or my coworkers as top-model caliber, most people here tend to be young, outgoing, and put together.

I’m none of the three (used to have two but as the first went, so did the last), yet I do well for myself in this industry.

bar tending is unabashedly lookist. Drunk people aren’t exactly the most discriminating of clientele.

Law firms and legal secretaries, especially. Part of my job is to go into different law firms and deliver legal things, mostly to the paralegals or secretaries. It seems that legal firms either have all really pretty women working OR all unattractive women. It’s either one or the other. We figured out, unscientifically of course, that some lawyers like to look at beautiful women and compete with their partners over who can get the hottest secretaries. The others just have wives that make them hire with the one and only goal of eliminating all temptation. :slight_smile: