Unfortunately, yes. It’s not just women – the dreaded “halo effect” gets us all. Turning heads is a great way to get a job, and when they do get employed, attractive people are likely to earn 3-4 per cent more than a person with below-average looks. But that’s not the whole story.
Beauty often goes with confidence. That’s understandable – being comfortable with who you are is an important part of everything from posture to speech, and people automatically assume confidence from beauty. But this also works the other way (it’s just harder). Confident people are often judged to be more attractive and more successful (even when they’re not).
And we all know that beautiful people are not necessarily the bright ones. Attractive estate agents are more likely to sell a house for more. But that doesn’t mean they’re good at their job. Actually, less beautiful estate agents often sell more houses, levelling out the playing field.
The best explanation for why this pretty-bias occurs is presented by Dr Hamermesh in an extremely popular book called Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People are More Successful. A lot of it comes down to your access to the gene pool – pretty people have kids with pretty people, creating rather a spiral.
But the less well-endowed should not lose hope. For starters, earning capacity isn’t the be all and end all. And many of the world’s most successful people are not famed for their ease on the eye (Angela Merkel, for one).
Bottom line: beauty helps, but it’s not a magic wand.