We’ve all heard of the gap in pay between men and women in the workforce, but another hurdle that many women have to overcome when it comes to receiving fair compensation is their weight. Women who are overweight are on average paid less than women who are of a normal weight. But what is interesting is that the same bias against overweight men isn’t seen, with overweight men making the same amount as their more average-weight colleagues.
Weight bias on the rise for women
While there has been discrimination against women who are overweight for decades, the preferential treatment of women who are of average weight has been on the rise in recent years. The irony of this is that this trend that results in lower wages for women who are overweight also coincides with a general uptick of obese people in the U.S. It’s not definitively clear why there’s such a rise in the bias against overweight women, but one reason likely is that people believe that weight is under the control of individuals, which is in contrast to race and skin color. Additionally, the rise in social media usage has also played a part in biases against overweight women.
The effect of age, gender, and weight combined
What is even more worrisome is that for women who are overweight, the pay gap only increases as they age. Over the years, women are paid less because they receive fewer promotions and raises. And as they climb the ranks, the pay gap between average-weight women and overweight women further increases.
No protections under the law
What further compounds this issue is that there are no government protections against discriminating against someone based on their weight. Someone who is overweight can be fired regardless of the quality of their work. In contrast, it is illegal to discriminate against someone based on a disability, and people are entitled to accommodations and protected against harassment and discrimination.
There are numerous reasons that women can be discriminated against, and the pay gap between overweight women and those of average weight is another trend that’s worth watching.