Powerful women in top jobs ‘getting slimmer’
Career women who are at the upper echelons of their jobs in law, medicine and business are slimming down, a new study has revealed.
According to the official figures, they are the only social group to lose weight in the past 15 years while everyone else is growing fatter.
New data from the National Obesity Observatory (NOO) shows that 15 percent of professional women were obese in 1997, but that figure had dropped to 14 percent by 2008.
NOO, which has monitored obesity issues in the UK since 2007, highlighted how the percentage of professional men classified as fat rose from 15 to 20 percent between 1997 and 2008.
The two reasons that are apparently behind the trend for slimmer women is that they are still judged on their appearance rather than skill and their ambition to be better than their male colleagues.
Professional women are aware of a bias against those who are overweight, according to Andrew Hill, professor of medical psychology at Leeds University.
“Appearance is the most important attribute for women in our society. Valuing them only for their appearance is a way for me to subjugate them,” the Daily Mail quoted him as telling the Sunday Times.
“There’s no doubt that to be fat in our current society is a disadvantage particularly if you are female,” he said.
Barrister Helen Jackson, who weighs 16 stone, said that obese male lawyers were accepted in her profession but female ones were not.
“The pressure on women to look the part has definitely got worse since I was called to the bar in 1975,” she said.
“Women now are slaves to their appearance more than they ever were,” she said.
In a survey published last month in Manchester and Melbourne, Australia, fat women scored worse in an assessment of their leadership potential.
The 12 candidates – six obese and six slim – had identical educational CVs, but those who were overweight were judged more poorly by volunteer students who took part in the study.
Former Tory Minister Ann Widdecombe was criticised for her appearance and subsequently lost weight when she appeared on the BBC’s ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ show.
She said society made demands on how women should look.
“I think the pressure on women to be concerned about their appearance has always been there,” she said.
But Heather Jackson, chief executive of the Women’s Business Forum believes that successful female professionals are at last recognising the health benefits of being slimmer.
“You only have to look at the FTSE 100 to see the best leaders – men or women – are not obese people,’ she is quoted.. ‘You have to be healthy and fit to be effective,” Jackson added.
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