Researchers from the University of Manchester and Monash University, Melbourne found that people are less likely to select an obese female candidate for a position, as well as rate them as deserving a lower starting salary and as having less leadership potential.
In a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, the researchers examined whether a recently developed measure of anti-fat prejudice, the universal measure of bias, predicted actual obesity job discrimination.
They also assessed whether people’s conservative personalities, such as authoritarianism, and social dominance orientation were related to obesity discrimination.
The nature of the study was initially concealed from the participants to avoid biased results and advertised as a study on whether some people are better at personnel selection than others.
Participants were shown a series of resumes that had a small photo of the job applicant attached and were asked to make ratings of the applicant’s suitability, starting salary, and employability.
“We used pictures of women pre and post-bariatric surgery, and varied whether participants saw either a resume, amongst many, that had a picture of an obese female attached, or the same female but in a normal weight range following bariatric surgery,” explained psychologist and lead researcher Dr Kerry O’Brien.
“We found that strong obesity discrimination was displayed across all job selection criteria, such as starting salary, leadership potential, and likelihood of selecting an obese candidate for the job.”
It was also discovered that those with a more authoritarian personality were more likely to discriminate against obese candidates.
Dr O’Brien added: “Our findings show that there is a clear need to address obesity discrimination, particularly against females who tend to bear the brunt of anti-fat prejudice. Prejudice reduction interventions and policies need to be developed.”