The Grooming Gap is Costing Women At Work If They Don’t Conform

Employees must have well-groomed hands and nails and makeup should be very well-maintained is just among the many details in corporate dress codes, and while these are just a few points among a myriad of official and unofficial grooming rules, everyone at work knows that a majority of them are aimed at women rather than men. More women today feel that they need to keep up their outward image at work, whether it’s the way they dress up or wear their makeup and hair and they also know how much it really pinches their pocket. Known as the gender grooming gap it is ‘the set of social norms regarding grooming and appearance for women, including the time women workers must spend to conform to these norms and the material consequences it has on their lives.’

There is a massive catch-22 when it comes to women conforming or not conforming

Everyone has heard that if you want to work in the corporate world, you also have to “look the part” and studies have shown that attractive employees do in fact earn more than their less attractive counterparts. A study conducted by sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner confirmed this again and also found that if women get hold of the right clothes, makeup, and hairstyle, higher wages are within their reach. However, on the other hand, men’s grooming costs are much lower than women’s, just taken men’s haircuts, for example, they all cost the same regardless of hair length. There is a massive catch-22 when it comes to women because, if they don’t conform to the beauty and grooming standards of the workplace they will be paid less and if they do conform, they have to spend a certain amount of money keeping up appearances, literally speaking. Grooming is an expensive affair, just ask any perfectly groomed woman, and the industry is being valued at $532 billion worldwide.

As women get older, they are hardest hit in industries that want women to look a certain way

Moreover, grooming also takes time, about 55 minutes a day on average and therefore, women have less time for other activities in their day. Also, jobs that thrive on appearances, like flight attendants, servers, bartenders and others have to ensure they look a certain way to keep the job or gain a higher salary. Restaurant and hospitality workers are the hardest hit by the grooming gap and unfortunately as women get older, they are hardest hit in industries that want women to look a certain way. There are doubts that there is a bigger burden on women than on men because they don’t have to undergo training sessions on makeup application, and they have no requirement to wear makeup. Truth be told, the system exploits women because female beauty is a very small box and it can be hard to fit in if you are anything but “perfect”. The struggle of the grooming gap really needs to be addressed and the system needs to be challenged, but who will do it? 

Image credit: Fast Company

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