The Skinniest Women Get The Fattest Paychecks

Illustration for article titled The Skinniest Women Get The Fattest Paychecks

More women than ever are earning six-figure incomes — but the ones reaping the biggest gains happen to be "very thin."

Good news first: according to the Washington Post, the number of women making $100,000 or more per year is on the rise. Still only one in 18 women make this much, compared with one in seven men, but the number of women pulling in six figures has risen 14% in the past two years, while the number of men has grown by just 4%. Probable explanation: women receiving more advanced degrees.


And now the bad news: one study shows that the biggest paychecks go to women who are "very thin." Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal reports on the study out of the University of Florida, which found that women who weighed 25 pounds less than the norm made about $15,572 more than average-weight women. Women who weighed 25 pounds more than average made $13,847 less — and their pay continued to decrease with their weight, although less sharply as weight climbed higher. This is in stark contrast to the data for men, who actually pay a penalty for being very thin, and reach their highest pay around 207 pounds (it's not clear from the Journal how height factors into this).

The study authors note that much of the effect of women's weight on pay may be the result of bias. But they also have another explanation: "People who conform to others' ideas about the ideal body image may actually perform better on the job, because they can wield more influence over other people and get more things accomplished." If it's true that extremely thin women have more professional influence, isn't that just another form of bias? Whatever the case, the glass ceiling appears to be even thicker for overweight women than it is for skinny ones — according to an earlier study, just 22% of female CEOs are overweight, compared with 29% of women of similar age in the general population.

Commenting on the rise of high-earning ladies, lawyer Lorie Masters told the Washington Post, "While I think we've won the hiring battles, I do think the issues women face are harder to deal with, because they're more subtle." Bias against overweight women may be one of these issues, although for some it's far from subtle. And while women's recent gains are striking, the data on weight and pay shows we still have a ways to go.

For Women, It Pays To Be Very Thin [WSJ]
More U.S. Women Pull Down Big Bucks [Washington Post]


Image via JohnKwan/

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Spend a week reading comments on Above the Law or Corporette and you'll have no doubt about the judgments people make about overweight women.

Some of my favorite arguments include classics like:

-If I can't trust (employee) to watch her figure than how can I trust her to care for our clients?

-I'm dedicated to an exercise program and a diet plan so I have better scheduling abilities than (token fat person)

-Looking fat shows you do not care about how your employer is represented

-If finding a dress/suit at the last minute is such a problem because of your weight, maybe you should take that as a hint

-At my firm, only the secretaries or someone not on partner track are allowed to be fat (seriously, allowed!?)

-Wear a cardigan to work because you know the fat (paralegal, secretary, always a woman) will turn on the AC as soon she arrives

I have seriously heard every one of those arguments made on those sites as "advice" and as a fat person attempting to work in corporate America, it is so fucking degrading to know that people think that about their co-workers and their bodies.

I'm surprised commenters here would rather play with semantics with cause/effect than looking at the actual consequences in the workplace for overweight women. You'll see in my examples that people have indicated only poor women are allowed to be fat in their workplace so what does that mean for the attorney who is fat and has a trial coming up? Will she be replaced for a skinnier woman or will it just be a man who replaces her? These issues affect all women and the way we are placed in society and I think that is worthy of discussion.