FOOD & FITNESS / OCT. 29, 2014
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New Study Says Overweight Women More Prone to Low-Wage Jobs

According to a new study at Vanderbilt University, obese women are less likely to make a decent wage in the workforce in comparison to obese men and average-size female colleagues.

Assistant Professor and Author Jennifer Shinall of “Occupational Characteristics and the Obesity Wage Penalty” conducted a study that examined 8,928 men and 10,007 women based on their health and occupational statuses.

In her findings, Shinall concluded that obese men do not encounter the same treatment in the workforce as women of the same caliber. 

Heavier men actually make the same wage as non-obese male colleagues. However, obese women do not experience the same impartiality when compared to slimmer women.

“Even after taking differences in education and socioeconomic status into account, there seems to be no scenario where being overweight becomes an advantage for a woman,” said Shinall.

The professor suggests that most women of larger sizes are experiencing both female and obese wage penalties.

They endure harsher salaries than overweight men because they aren’t “manly” enough, and in the same instance with thinner women because they aren’t “small” enough.

There has been some debate over labeling obese workers as disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act, especially when it pertains to taking legal action. However, an overweight woman’s standard choices in jobs prove that this thought shouldn’t even be considered.

Overweight women are “increasingly less likely to work in a personal interaction or personal communication occupation.” This includes any position where one-on-one human interaction—like being a salesperson or receptionist—is the main focus on a job.

Instead, obese women can be found working in physical activity occupations, including childcare, health care, or the food industry.

Therefore, most heavyset females do not fall in line with the provisions outlined in the ADA.  

Yet, larger women still succumb to wage inequality, whether it’s linked to a stationary or physically challenging job.

The study found that overweight female workers make 5 percent less than thinner women working in the same field.

The same scenario can’t be said for overweight men.

Most occupations that involve strenuous hands-on work or physical labor are an advantage for larger men. They tend to actually make 4 percent more than leaner men.

Shinall, also points out how obese women find themselves more likely to be rejected for white-collar jobs, which could be associated with both gender and size discrimination. 

She assumes that some hiring managers rather not work alongside an overweight woman or have her as one of the faces to represent the company. 

“It absolutely suggests that weight is much more of a consideration in the labor market for women than it is for men,” Shinall said.

Overall, it appears that obese women are the least appealing to hiring managers, but wage equality continues to be an obstacle for women in the workplace no matter the size.

At the end of the day, women continue to make 84 percent of what men earn. It’s just that obese women unfortunately sit at the lowest part of that statistic.

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