In business, size matters

2006

Indulged in a few mince pies in the past week or so? Had one serving of turkey too many? Better watch that waistline, because piling on the pounds can damage your career – and that's one thing that the long arm of the equality police can't protect you from.

As we're constantly being reminded, discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion or sexual orientation will quickly see employers falling foul of equality laws. But as a new survey from the UK on image in business has revealed, prejudice against the overweight is all-pervasive in the business world.

Almost eight out of 10 British bosses believe that there is a prejudice against people who are seriously overweight in business, with around seven out of 10 believing that overweight individuals are seen as lacking energy, drive, self-discipline and control .

In contrast, the same proportion believe that those who are very fit and exercise regularly are better able to cope with the stresses and demands of a senior role in business.

The research, by communications consultancy The Aziz Corporation, also found that almost four out of 10 (38 per cent) of British business men and women consider themselves to be somewhat overweight with a further five per cent admitting to a significant weight problem.

As a result, almost half (44 per cent) are planning a New Year's Resolution to shed the pounds in 2007.

The research comes as cosmetic surgeons on both sides of the Atlantic are seeing a growing number of high-flyers of both sexes stepping through their doors, with the numbers of men keen to look young with a little artificial assistance rising particularly rapidly.

The most popular requests from men are apparently eye bag removal, wrinkle fillers and baldness treatments.

"Contrary to the belief that brains not weight is important in business, and that only supermodels and celebrities need to concern themselves with diets and regular exercise to look good, this research reveals that appearance matters in business, and that weight is one of the key factors in appearance," said Professor Khalid Aziz, Chairman of The Aziz Corporation, said.

"Employees are judged on appearance as well as talent. If you have two candidates both capable of doing a job and one is of normal weight and the other is heavily overweight, then often the thinner person will be chosen, particularly if they will be in a client-facing role.

"This is because, rightly or wrongly, being slim is often equated with being successful. This message is heavily promoted by the advertising world and so this particular prejudice only looks set to continue."