The more powerful women become, the more we are taught that our bodies are unacceptable. A recent study seems to prove what many of us have long suspected: Working women in the west are directly rewarded for losing weight. The report, published in the latest Journal of Applied Psychology , reveals that the pay and influence of test groups of women in America and Germany consistently rose as their weight dropped below the healthy average, even when controlling for other factors that affect both weight and pay. By contrast, weight gain was an indicator of financial success for males up to the point of extreme obesity, when men too begin to pay a professional penalty.
Causality is always difficult to establish, and is impossible to say conclusively whether the women lost weight because their salaries rose, or whether their salaries rose because they lost weight. But after a century of feminism, it seems as if women can gain power only if we take up as little space as possible. Many of the most influential women in the world, as determined by Forbes’ annual list of the 100 most powerful women, published last week, have endured very public battles to keep their weight down-including Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey, and Beyonce amongst the top 10. Others on the list, including Hilary Clinton and Angela Merkel, have faced popular ridicule for the apparently scandalous surfeit of flesh on their perfectly normal-sized bellies and bottoms. Clearly, if there’s one type of woman the media can’t stand, it’s a political heavyweight.
Photograph of slim girl in bikini by Wikimedia Commons.