Gain just five kilos and it can hurt your chances of getting a job. Seriously.

We all know women lose out in the employment stakes. There is a gender gap in payment. There is a gender gap in women being hired for executive roles. There is a gender gap in women being hired full stop.

We also know there is discrimination around weight in employment. A 2009 study found overweight individuals may be disadvantaged in career outcomes, including hiring and performance reviews, compared to average weight individuals.

New research, however, has shown just a few kilograms can make a huge difference – particularly if you’re a woman.

The study, conducted by a team of Scottish and Canadian researchers and published in Plos One this month, found you don’t have to be clinically overweight to face discrimination.

And that, particularly for women, just a few kilograms could be the difference between landing that job and remaining unemployed. Think about it: just a few kilograms overweight.

That’s right, it’s discrimination within discrimination. Another ugly gender gap means ‘heavier’ women are the group of people least likely to be hired.

“Especially for women, being heavier, but still within a healthy BMI, deleteriously impacts on hireability ratings,” the report states. “The paper [asks] whether female employees at the upper end of a healthy BMI range are likely to be viewed more negatively than their overtly overweight male counterparts.”

(What a question to ask).

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The researchers asked 60 men and 60 women to imagine they were company recruiters.

These participants were asked to judge the suitability of job candidates by looking at their faces. The faces were of four men and women at various, digitally enhanced, weights. All these weights were within the ‘healthy’ range, according to the BMI scale.


The participants were told the ‘candidates’ had identical resumes, they were also the same race.

“Based on your gut reactions, how likely would you be to hire each, on a scale of one (extremely unlikely) to seven (extremely likely) for customer-facing roles or no-contact gigs?” the questionnaire read.

The candidates’ actual photographs (that were not digitally adjusted) scored an average rating of 4.84 in hireability. This changed to 4.61 for the “heavier” or modified photographs.

For women candidates however, the heavier face was rated 0.66 points lower than the "original" face.

For men, the drop was only 0.26 points.

“These results affirm that even a marginal increase in weight appears to have a negative impact on the hireability ratings of female job applicants,” the authors wrote. “For women, it seems, even seemingly minute changes to the shape, size and weight of the body are important.”

It's one more example of the way women are judged so harshly, for the same things that we consider almost insignificant in men.

The same way a woman's makeup, or hair cut, or the way she dresses or sits or talks might affect her chances landing a job; she can also be of a healthy weight, but still lose out because she is heavier than another candidate.

As if weight has any affect on job suitability. As if gender has any affect at all.