It’s a piece of research which may serve as a timely reminder to HR professionals to take stock of recurring discrimination issues and prejudice in the recruitment phase. Not surprisingly, obese women remain the most prejudged group in the candidacy pool.
The study, Stigmatization of obese individuals by human resource professionals: an experimental study, was published by BioMed Central by a team of German researchers from the University of Tübingen. A volunteer sample of more than 120 HR professionals were tasked with matching standardized photographs of a range of candidates with a set list of work-related prestige and achievements. The candidates differed with respect to gender, ethnicity, and Body Mass Index (BMI).
The study revealed that HR consistently underestimated the occupational prestige of obese individuals and overestimated it for healthy-weight individuals. “Obese people were more often disqualified from being hired and less often nominated for a supervisory position, while non-ethnic normal-weight individuals were favoured. Stigmatisation was most pronounced in obese females,” the study found.
The data suggested that HR professionals are prone to pronounced weight stigmatisation, especially in women, and highlighted the need for increased awareness of discrimination and bias at the hiring stage.
Other key findings from the study included:
HR professionals showed an overestimation of occupational prestige in normal weight individuals and an underestimation in obese individuals.
Only 2% of study participants credited the obese women as having a high prestige occupation such as a medical doctor or architect.
When asked whom they absolutely would not hire, HR professionals showed a strong weight stigmatisation.
42% disqualified the obese female and 19% the obese male.
Non-ethnic normal-weight candidates were favoured for supervisory positions, while obese individuals were rarely selected.
Only 6% of study participants considered obese females suitable for a supervisory role.
While there was also an overall mild gender and race bias in supervisor position selections, weight produced by far the largest inequalities, especially in women.
In general, both female and male HR professionals share similar attitudes towards obese individuals.
*Notable limitations of the study were that the researchers only had access to data from HR professionals who were volunteered to participate in the study and that the resumes of the candidates were not included. Thus, HR participants had to base their decision solely on the applicant’s picture.
Have online MBA’s come of age?
Ramadan has started, is your workplace accommodating?
Turnover in HR’s own backyard not pretty
Witnesses to workplace bullying consider quitting more than the victims
Coaching lessons from neuroscience
Lessons from the most engaged