It is common to hear stories about how good looking women are offered good jobs because their boss is attracted to them. These are women that come into work with pencil skirts, cleavage showing, and well made up faces on a daily basis.
“Beauty is an outward gift, which is seldom despised, except by those to whom it has been refused.” – Ralph Emerson.
As women, we have always been told to use our intellect to become just as credible as men, but we often play down our looks to become equal partners. Recently, Catherine Hakim, the author of ‘Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital’ challenged that notion and told women to use their looks to get ahead.
The book uses the example of a young lady who lost her job at a financial institution after giving it her all for ten years. After investing in an expensive suit, losing weight, and taking part in a beauty makeover she was able to obtain a new job paying her 50% more than her old one.
The research shows that women who are considered plain-looking get fewer promotions and a lower salary. On the flip-side, women who wear makeup daily are perceived to be more competent and are more likely to receive a call back after an interview. Catherine argues that there is a beauty premium at the workplace which awards a higher salary to women who are considered more attractive, over the course of their careers. I began to think about this theory in the Nigerian context, and concluded that this same theory can be applied to Nigerian women.
Women in Nigeria are obsessed with makeup and beauty products. Every day, another makeup artist is on the rise, and her job is to paint the queue filled with women waiting to get their faces transformed. We love fashion; we want to look good and will even sell all valuables to be able to put Brazilian weave on our head. Clearly, not all Nigerian women behave in this manner, but we have to really ask if those that are not obsessed with their beauty tend to get less opportunities to get ahead in life.
Bianca Ojukwu who won Ms. Intercontinental went on to take on Minister of Diasporan Affairs and is Nigeria’s Ambassador to Ghana. It may never be clear if she is even qualified to hold those titles, but nonetheless her looks have played a part in her advancement into prominent roles in government. It is common to hear stories about how good-looking women are offered good jobs because their boss is attracted to them. These are women that come into work with pencil skirts, cleavage showing, and well made up faces on a daily basis.
Let’s face it; women who look good in Nigeria are held to a different standard. Other women envy them, and men want to be with them. I always thought it was ironic how we yell “shame!” to women who use their looks to get ahead in life yet we look down upon women who do not take care of themselves. If someone told me, “I will give you a raise if you come to work with make up on everyday”, why wouldn’t I jump at the chance? Look at Kim Kardashian; she has practically used her looks to build an empire. Her brand has expanded globally. I may not agree with all of her tactics, but I must commend her for her business savvy.
It is time to stop condemning those that know how to leverage their beauty.
Now of course, beauty can only take you so far; to become another Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala you must possess the brain. I believe I have been blessed with both, and while I still haven’t mastered leveraging my looks, I definitely want to invest more in my appearance. You may call it vanity, but the power of beauty is overwhelming. I say take advantage of having beauty and brains. It may be the source of your next opportunity.
What is your take on leveraging beauty to advance in the workplace? Do you personally use your beauty to get ahead in life? Drop your comments below!
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.
Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.
UPDATE: The article has been edited to remove the errors. Apologies to our readers.