How Much Do Looks Really Matter?

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As I learned in HR over this past week, apparently a heck of a lot.

We discussed prejudice and discrimination in the workplace and in company hiring policies, and we watched a video by ABC on their 20/20 series in which they conducted an interesting study on beauty. Several experiments were conducted in which two identically-qualified women and men were placed into the same situation, and the results were compared. The one difference was that one was deemed “attractive” and the other, “plain”. They were all actors playing the role, so I thought they were all decent-looking to begin with, but they had makeup artists really dramatize the differences.

  • In the first experiment, both the women pretended to have troubles with their car at similar locations and times, and stood against their car which was pulled over on the side of the road. The result: 12 people pulled over for the attractive girl, and many of them brought her gas, but only 2 people pulled over for the plain girl, and nobody offered to buy her gas.
  • In a similar experiment, they had the two women set up charity booths in a mall where they were to collect donations from shoppers. Both the women had similar traffic patterns, but when they counted the money, the attractive girl earned $90 (50% more), while the plain girl earned $60.
  • The men and the women had carefully curated resumes which reflected nearly identical skills and experiences, and were both sent in for the same job interviews with hidden cameras. The handsome male was treated very nicely and was offered the job in all of the interviews, but the plain male candidate was given very brief interviews and was either told that he’d get a call back later (which never came), or that there was no suitable role in the company at the moment. The handsome candidate was described as more competent and fit for the job, even though he didn’t say much more than “uh huh”, “I understand”, and other generic comments.
  • Same with the females: the interviewers were very gracious to the attractive one and made the job seem pleasant and relaxing (“Our company policy is a 45-minute lunch, but we are very lenient and relaxed around here”), but told the plain female that exceptional performance is expected from all workers, and that there is a very strict 45-minute lunch rule.
  • When discussing salaries, the plain female candidate was told that the starting salary was $16,000 – $18,000, but the attractive one was told “at least $18,000”. The show cited an economic study in that beauty is worth around $2,000 more in salary expectations.
  • 2 teachers were brought in as substitutes for a first grade class and asked which teacher they preferred. 27/28 students chose the attractive one.

I wish I could describe exactly how all the interactions went down, because it was truly shocking and even disturbing. When the unknowing subjects of the experiments said particularly ironic things, the class would basically groan and “oh my god” in unison.

As someone who grew up in a Western lifestyle, and felt more like the ugly duckling than the beautiful swan growing up, I am no stranger to the effects of beauty (or lack of). But I always thought that it only mattered in things such as dating and high school popularity, or in how Abercrombie and Fitch hires its sales staff. I did not expect this to occur in the most innocuous of everyday events, like simply donating to charity, or when somebody’s car breaks down on the side of the road and desperately needs help.

Even though we give A&F and similar companies a lot of backlash for their discriminatory practices, we can see that society is attracted to aesthetic appeal from a young age- just look at the 6 year old kids in the first grade class choosing the more attractive substitute teacher without a second thought. These kids aren’t intentionally trying to discriminate- I think we as human beings are wired to be gravitated towards beauty.

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

When I was watching the video, my heart sank. What about the 95% of us that don’t look like Victoria’s Secret models or have A&F-worthy washboard abs? We’ve been working so hard in school and life, trying to make something of ourselves, only to be possibly passed over in amazing opportunities because we don’t look like a magazine cover model? No wonder plastic surgery rates are skyrocketing globally. There is so much pressure to look perfect. Whatever happened to positive self and body image?

An environment in which it is expected that only attractive people are hired is not one that I would see myself thriving in. We discussed this in class. I value diversity and acceptance, and when going out into the workforce, will look for an organization whose values align with mine. While I, as an individual, cannot change society and human biology, I can do my part to be loving and accepting of all different kinds of people, cause god knows we need more of both in this world.

London Travels: Breathtaking Views & Landmarks

So I’m sort of behind in my blogging, but I’ve been out until decently late in the evening and have not had time to sit down and write. Takes me around an hour to create a post, especially if they have photos, so it’s been difficult to find the time.

August 22: I visited the Buckingham Palace, which was a lot more grand than Kensington Palace. Queen Elizabeth II lives here (but she is away for the summer, hence why it is open for visitors right now), and it was just really grand and posh.

We had to buy our tickets 2 days in advance, we had to go through airport-esque security, scanning bags in those plastic bins and going through metal detectors and such, and we weren’t allowed to take any photos inside. I personally thought it was a ton of hassle, but I guess I can’t go to London and not go to Buckingham Palace.

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As I didn’t have any photos of the inside, I can only describe it as over-the-top and lavish. Yes, it was a sight to behold, each room decorated with priceless art, gold, red velvet, jewels, and beautiful architecture. But it was to the point that every room began to look the same. I honestly can’t imagine living in that palace, it’s just too much. Still, definitely a must-see in London.

Afterwards, we found yet more Asian food, this time Chinese, in a bustling place not far from the Palace and from Victoria Station:

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It looks better than it tasted. I think I’ll stick to non-Asian foods from now on in London. It’s just not the same as home. Although that Korean food I had the other day was amazing.

We headed over to the Natural History Museum, which was actually more interesting than the British Museum. It talked a lot of about how the Earth came to be, its natural processes and minerals, and was basically Geography 12 all over again but in a more interesting and interactive manner.

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Is that not the coolest escalator you’ve ever seen? Definitely the best part of this museum.

After the museum, we wanted to head back to the hotel, but upon arriving at the underground station:

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Yeah… there’s no way we’d be able to get home. Rush hour in London makes rush hour in Vancouver seem tame. People flooded the station as far as the eye could see. So we went to eat dinner instead.

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We went to Pret A Manger, which is this cafe chain in London that I’d been dying to try ever since coming across the name in Sophie Kinsella’s books when I was younger. It was (most unfortunately) too late to have coffee, so we had some sparking juice and a chicken and pasta salad instead.

The next day, we visited Big Ben tower and the London Parliament buildings, aka the Palace of Westminster. Again, airport-like security and no photos inside, so I don’t have photos of the inside. But the place used to be a palace, so I think that kind of gives you an idea of its grandiose architecture and design. I noticed that the way that the government works here is very similar to Canada’s. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and I actually managed to pay attention the whole time.

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Unfortunately, we couldn’t tour the inside of Big Ben, as it is only open to residents of the Westminster area. Not even residents of London, just Westminster. But admiring it from the outside is just as great. It looks beautiful in photos.

Afterwards, we walked over the Westminster Bridge overlooking the River Thames, and honestly that is probably the highlight of my vacation thus far. I got to eat lunch right next to the River and it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. It looked like the opening scene of a movie, or a photo on a postcard, or something… and I couldn’t believe that I got to see it with my own eyes. I was blown away. Such breathtaking views.

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Afterwards, we briefly visited the Westminster Abbey, the famous cathedral. Fun fact: Will and Kate got married here!

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Later that night, my family and I tried Jamie Oliver, an Italian restaurant that was apparently big in London (according to my friend). However, we were very disappointed by the quality of the food.

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My pasta was very watered down, plain, and bland, even after sprinkling on parmesan and pepper. And the portions were tiny for their price- it looks decent here, but we were still hungry after eating our entrees.

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I believe that this was a “Strawberry refresher” of some sort- but it was terrible. It was expensive, sour, and comprised mostly of ice. It was rather pricey for a non-alcoholic beverage as well.

More to come later! It’s almost midnight here and I must get to bed. May not have the chance to blog until I get home- tomorrow is my last full day here!

Transit observations:

Observation #5: The transit system here is so efficient, I love it. There is even 24-hour transit in Central London, with some buses coming every half hour in the middle of the night. What I would do to have 24-hour transit in Vancouver.

Observation #6: The tube is really, really hot. Both in the trains and in the stations. May be due to the sheer amount of people in the stations/trains (see photo above), but I sweat up a storm every time I enter an underground station.

Observation #7: Unlike Vancouver, there is a plastic box around bus operators (for safety), and you are not allowed to speak to them when the bus is in motion. Buses in central London are all double-decker (I love it). I also noticed that there are no homeless people on any transit systems, which there is a lot of in Vancouver.