#30Days30Voices: Chika Uwazie clarifies: The beauty debate at work

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Chika Uwazie

Following her article titled: Chika Uwazie: A woman’s ultimate weapon is her beauty (30 Days, 30 Voices) published here on YNaija 2 days ago, Uwazie is back to clear up any misunderstanding some readers might have interpreted from her message. Excerpts:

All of these facts are unfortunate and hard to swallow, but nonetheless women who pay more attention to their personal appearance have some modicum of benefit. Remember that these are simply correlations and are not absolutes.

A few days ago I wrote an article concerning the unfortunate truths about personal appearance and its use in the workplace. This subject is a sensitive one, and some of my points drew support from some and criticism from others. Since this was an opinion piece I wrote in haste, I would like to revisit the topic because I feel that some of my points were misconstrued.

However, I must stress that personal appearance does have an effect on how one interacts at work especially for women. We should not shy away from capitalizing on our looks while maintaining the utmost professionalism.

We have all heard of the phrase that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This applies to the workplace as well. The great thing about beauty is that it has a range. Beauty can be as simple as a woman who comes into work well groomed from head to toe. This is a lady who may not take the time to put on makeup every morning but always has manicured hands, well placed hair, and tailored clothing. Or beauty could be the woman who always has a full face of makeup on, her fashion is impeccable, and is always rocking a well-kept hairstyle. All are beautiful, as well as professional. We as women are born with feminine features that make us unique. Whether you were born to be extremely good looking or you know how to enhance your features, there is no set way of looking beautiful.

The author I referred to in my previous article, Professor Catherine Hakim from the London School of Economics never specified the exact traits of women that make us beautiful. Rather, she discusses investing in ourselves to put our best self forward. We take the time to invest in our education, network, and finances so why would our appearances be any different? It is equally important in our progression in the workplace.

Some women will say that we have been fighting against the notion of looks to advance our careers, but in the year of 2012 it is still evident that those that invest in their looks have a greater advantage in the workplace. Payscale released a report in March of 2012 about the benefits of personal appearance in the workplace. The first part of the report shows that during an interview, 72% of attractive people will get a call back for an interview versus 62% of unattractive people. Women who are 70 pounds under the average weight are considered to take home $60,000 more home versus a woman who is 30 pounds overweight. A series of tests were done against women who wear makeup versus women who have no makeup on and women who wear makeup are perceived to be more competent, likable, and trustworthy.

The report even discusses the life cycle of someone who is considered attractive and because they tend to have a higher self-esteem, they earn $70,000 more versus a person who is considered unattractive who has a lower self-esteem. All of these facts are unfortunate and hard to swallow, but nonetheless women who pay more attention to their personal appearance have some modicum of benefit. Remember that these are simply correlations and are not absolutes.

Of course to every statistic there are those who are among the exception. Will every attractive person advance in their careers, No. Will every unattractive person have a terrible career? Once again, no. It is clearly up to that person to decide how they perceive themselves, and how they want others to see them.

Some of the commentary that was made was that my article suggested that I believe sexual woman will advance in their careers. While I fully disagree with this method of advancement, it is common to hear stories of these type of woman getting promoted and favored by their boss. This is all I stated in my article. There is great risk that those individuals will have to be willing to take. Unfortunately, these methods can work in some ladies’ favour and this is a reality that we have to face. However many times, this same method can come back to haunt them in some organizations.

Investing in your looks does not mean wearing tighter clothing, or getting plastic surgery to get the boss to notice you more. There are plenty of ways to invest in your appearances and still be respected as a woman in the workplace. Personally, I do not wear make up on a daily basis. I would rather invest in the clothes I wear, and on occasion dab on a little of my favorite red lipstick. It makes me feel good to be well put together, and I encourage all women to invest in yourselves in whatever way you choose.

Men know to come to work with their best shirt, ties, and be well groomed. Why should women be any different? Why are women told to play down their looks, especially for those that advance higher on the career ladder? Some of the most remarkable women in the world are not only well educated, but know how to capitalize on their looks as well.

Michelle Obama is one of the most talked about presidential wives in history. Why? This woman is smart, keeps in shape, and is always dressed to impress. Then we have Oprah, who in her early part of her career was not always known for her looks but is now considered to be a trendsetter. Oprah literally has a glow about her and everything she touches turns into gold; from her life classes, even to wigs named after her. There is simply something captivating about a woman who has beauty and brains. Can you say a woman who knows how to use both is a foolish woman? I’m inclined to think not.

I do not expect everyone to agree with what I believe, and quite frankly the world will still go around. It may not be fair or right that those who take pride in their appearance at work are held to a higher standard, but this is reality. People react positively to good-looking people. Positive reactions are important in the workplace especially if you want to advance. I believe when we accept this truth, the topic of beauty will become less controversial.

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About the author: Chika Uwazie is a Human Resources professional, and passionate about helping people advance in their career. She currently runs a blog called the Naija Careerist and is part of a startup.

@ChikaUwazie

Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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Comments (13)

  1. I dint read the other article but I can imagine telling women their beauty is their best weapon, when most of us don’t feel beautiful half the time. FYI Kim Kardashian without make up blows. She does contour make up which gives the wearer an iLlusion of high cheekbones, slimer nose, slimer face. etc etc. So she looks like a regular person without makeup. Ladies own your beauty. Appreciate your fine selves, so what you have a big nose or a big forehead? So what your a darker skin tone? Embrace you! Do you, don’t let anyone make you feel like any less of a person just because you don’t fit into today’s unrealistic standards of beauty.

  2. It is nice to see a massive change in tone from your previous article. My personal opinion is that each individual is different. I have a (naturally) beautiful friend who has to play down her looks in order to be taken seriously in the workplace. This is a girl who will wear simple clothes, flat shoes and no make up deliberately so that people will see how competent she is, not how pretty she is.

  3. Hello Miss K,

    This piece is not from an HR point of view, I simply work in the profession. The series is called voices which would indicate our own opinion. I also said in the article that not everyone that invest in their looks will get advanced in their career and those who do not will not go further. All I stated was facts which have been backed up from several studies.

    At the end of the first article I asked a question if beauty is leveraged in your careers. I asked this question because I am aware that not all industries work this way, but once again many people did not take the time to look and instead jumped to conclusions.

  4. Wow. Even though this is a much better article than the first, i am still offended that in addition to changing your profile picture, you didnt think to rescind the title of your article. A woman's beauty is NOT her ultimate weapon. As a female engineer who works in a male dominated industry, my looks are definitely not my weapon, ultimate or otherwise. except maybe to self-destruct.
    As a HR professional, did you consider other industries and not just the conventional careers? or the recent research done in Isreal that a woman's good looks maybe detrimental to her finding a job? & not so for her male counterparts? I wouldn't have minded the article so much if it was an opinion piece, & not presented from a HR point of view.

  5. Ehnehn!(In typical yoruba exclamation) You are now talking! Where did you keep michell and oprah before, that you were referring to that bitchy Kim K? This is the chika that we read on nairaland and LinkedIn, not the one who wrote the first article. I hope you have learnt one or two lessons from the critics- both the descent ones and the big mouthed ones ever soaked in profanity. Welldone girl.

  6. Chidi did you see at the end that I clearly stated that I do not expect everyone to accept my viewpoint. People read what they want to read and do not want to see the full picture of what I said. Instead of looking at the article I wrote which was supported by facts, you go into talking about my personal twitter account. My twitter account is for my own personal views and I hope you can just respect that. I do work hard, I enjoy my life, and I will never apologize for being happy. Whats funny is on most days I talk about HR or give career advice. I respect your opinion and will take note of what you said, but please do not use my article to air out personal issues.

  7. Dear Chika, you really need to work on your atitude too. Many times you bring up controversial topics on twitter and when you are attacked, you start boosting about how hard working, beautiful, influential or "wifed up" (Your boyfriend) you are. Please note: Whatever we are is by God's awesome grace not just by our effort. Secondly, It's a free world but before you dish out opinons in public, think well and be mindful. Don't expect everyone to accept your view hook, line and sinker.

  8. Dear chika, this was unnecessary. I noted that you decided to use a 'finer' picture this time.

  9. I must add that a woman's ultimate weapon IS NOT her beauty! Beauty fades, it matters not how much you subject yourself to be sliced with the surgeons knife,or how much make up and false eyelashes you wear; it will never make you eternally beautiful! True beauty radiates from within and translates in our actions. Plus once you age a little, the younger and hotter ones take over. Stop using something as superficial and as fleeting as physical beauty as a benchmark for personal/career success.

  10. Oh well, you pretty much have backtracked from your previous article were you used Kim Kardashian as the ultimate example – someone who shot to fame from a sex tape- it felt as though you were urging us all to do same 😉 only kidding
    Now you use better examples of women who may not be as insanely beautiful as Kim but who do take care of their appearance. I agree that women should be well groomed, but it is important you work on yourself as well as beauty fades. Mother Teresa existed permanently in a Nuns outfit but was equally as powerful and as influential as a princess Diana for example. I guess looks can get you so far but you need to back those looks up with a bit of substance hence the world will get tired of you.

  11. Dear Chika, I have refrained from responding to your last article because I believe the issue was a bit trumped up. I am forced to come out of hiding to respond to this one because it seems to me that you have not sufficiently addressed the issues. It is in man's nature to abdicate responsibility and blame other people for their woes. Your assertion that " some of my points were misconstrued" underpins an even sadder assumption that the vast majority of people who had an issue with your article somewhat lacked essential cognitive abilities. When you begin an article with the statement: "A woman's ultimate weapon is her beauty", I wonder how you want us to interpret that. The Encarta dictionary states that Ultimate is "greatest, most nearly perfect, or highest in quality" (Microsoft® Encarta® 2009). Are you seeing the problem? You may have had intelligent points but you marshaled them really poorly. Then you go ahead to say that it may not be right but it happens.

    By way of analogical extension, I may argue that armed robbery may not be right but people use it to leverage themselves in life. You totally negated the moral perspectives. You have to apologize for arguing such a sensitive issue with little or no acuity. To even point this out in a professional capacity as a HR consultant is even more damaging.

    And for the love of God, stop telling people to look you up on LinkedIn, that is just unreasonable. If you have written a piece that tells poorly of your professionalism, people will call you out on it. The response should be to see what you have done wrong, apologize and retrace your steps instead of saying "Google Me, I'm all that."

    I hope you can learn from this episode, since it clearly shows from this your response that you haven't! Sensitive issues should not be argued with a certain level of sensationalism.

  12. The previous article 'A woman's ultimate weapon is her beauty', sounded like all a woman needed to suceed was cleavage, tight skirts and loads of make-up, even the use of Kim K (who has used her sexuality to build her empire) as an example didn't help much. But if this was the message you were trying to pass accross, I agree with you. A woman shouldn't let herself go or let go of her femininity in order to succeed in the workplace. Appearance and looks whether we like it or not are important. But what is most important is develpoing your intellect and character as well as your looks. So I agree with you. Cheers. 🙂

  13. I don't really disagree but I think we should be careful not to mistake causation for correlation. Better groomed women may be higher earners simply because their advanced positions now demand it. For example, I think Michelle Obama pays more attention to her style than she did before becoming First Lady. And as you mentioned, Oprah wasn't considered stylish until she became famous. So, while I'm generally in favor of women being well-groomed in professional environments, it does not mean that women need to do so to be successful.

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