Looks like you made it (or not)
Attraction at the workplace remains a topic of hot debate, especially when it comes to women. According to a new survey on this subject by social network LinkedIn, 49% women believe that physical appearance hasn't had a major impact on their career. To delve deeper, Ruchika Kher spoke to experts and working women to figure if it really is a no-looks-all-talent world, or if outward beauty plays a key role in shaping one's career
Most of us would have been privy to office talk where it is assumed that looks must have played a key role when a successful and attractive woman reaches a professional pedestal. But, how much of this holds true for real? Is it correct to take away the credit of reaching the top from an intelligent and talented woman solely on the grounds that she happens to be pretty? Versions and opinions vary. Some deem it right, others oppose this outlook, completely. Recently, social network LinkedIn undertook a survey on working women, and the result brought to the table that 49% women believe that physical appearance has not had a major impact on their careers. But do our city women believe this rating?
Not just about the looks
“I would have to agree with the statement. Personally, I don’t believe that looks play as major a role as a woman’s confidence, her attitude, and determination to succeed. That doesn’t mean however, that a proper outward appearance doesn’t make any difference — a well-groomed person could certainly pass off as more confident, and hence more likely to succeed. But in my opinion, this rule applies to both men and women,” says Shuchi Pandya, an entrepreneur who co-founded Pipa + Bella, an online jewellery brand.
Echoing a similar stance, Arpita Majumder, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer of KyaZoonga.com adds that for her while physical beauty is not a sure shot way of achieving professional success, being presentable and well groomed is. “As far as physical beauty is concerned, I don’t feel it’s important to shape your career, but if appearance includes grooming and dressing appropriately then I believe it’s integral for one’s career growth chart. Dressing right and conservatively is very important when you are in your workplace because you don’t want the focus to shift to anything else apart from your work. But yes, being presentable is essential and goes a long way,” she asserts.
To bring clarity to the matter, image builder Reeta D Gupta, founder, The Network, makes a distinction between looks and deportment where looks, she says, is a slang for beauty, whereas deportment is a larger nomenclature that covers expression, manners, etiquette, dressing, poise and social conduct.
“In a professional setting, it’s more important to get one’s point across well and one can easily understand why an effective deportment, backed by essentials such as depth of knowledge, commitment and sincerity is far more critical for success than just physical appearance,” she informs, adding that there’s an instantaneous reaction to beauty that lasts the first five minutes of an interaction.
It’s involuntary and uncontrolled. This could be seen coming from women towards an exceptionally good-looking man, or from men towards an exceptionally good-looking woman. “I believe, however, that as people engage in work, ability, composure, subject knowledge, resourcefulness, ability to work as a team would take precedence, whether or not beauty is associated with it. A professional ‘deportment’ could however enhance the experience of others who deal with you; and help you position yourself well.” Beauty matters
However, HR trainer Anita Shantaram has a different take. She feels that physical appearance plays a significant role when it comes to work and often aids professional progress. “Looks play a role, not just for women, even for men. Obviously, one needs to keep other factors in mind as well, like overall qualification and talent, but if there are two people who are equally talented and qualified where one is slightly more good-looking than the other,
there is a higher probability that the good-looking candidate will be picked. However, if you’re not good at what you are required to do, only beauty will not fetch you anything,” she explains.
Shantaram also mentions that there have been a few occasions when good looks can actually go against you. When people indulge in reverse snobbery, they start believing that good-looking people, will not excel at their work; in this case you are bound to lose out.