Schedule a Call

Unraveling the Impact of Fatphobia and What Organizations Can Do About It - Part 2: How Fatphobia Impacts Career Progression

Jan 01, 2024
A stethoscope on a chalkboard with the word


In the previous issue, we discussed how the pervasive issue of fatphobia casts a profound shadow on individual experiences. You can read Part 1 of the series by clicking HERE.

In this issue we will delve into the intricate ways in which fatphobia adversely affects individuals within professional spheres, influencing career trajectories and shaping the broader landscape of the workplace.

From implicit biases to systemic challenges, we explore the multifaceted impact of fatphobia on the professional lives of individuals, shedding light on the imperative need for awareness and the need for more inclusive and supportive work environments.

Below, are just a few ways fatphobia impacts the workplace:


  1. Biased Hiring Process

In certain instances, hiring committees may harbor biased views about individuals with larger bodies, which can result in the exclusion of highly qualified candidates. This bias can manifest in various forms, from implicit assumptions about a candidate's work ethic based on their body size to more overt judgments about their professionalism or competence. These biased attitudes not only undermine the principles of fair employment but also contribute to a less diverse workforce. By recognizing and addressing these biases, employers can take significant strides towards fostering equitable hiring practices, ensuring that candidates are evaluated based on their skills, qualifications, and experiences rather than subjective and biased judgments related to their body size.


  1. Limited Networking and Career Advancement Opportunities

Individuals facing fatphobia may face social exclusion in professional settings, which can impact their participation in crucial networking events, informal workplace gatherings, and even professional development opportunities. The impact of these missed networking opportunities extends beyond the social realm--it also influences career advancement and professional growth. Being excluded from significant networking opportunities puts individuals at a disadvantage because it limits their access to valuable career advice, guidance, and opportunities for skill development.


  1. Skewed Performance Evaluation

Fatphobia impacts the workplace when it leads supervisors to make appearance-based judgments that overshadow an employee's actual performance. This biased assessment can result in skewed performance evaluations where competence is unfairly linked to physical appearance rather than professional accomplishments. Such prejudiced evaluations hinder the objective recognition of an individual's contributions, perpetuating an environment where biases negatively impact career progression and professional development.


  1. Promotion and Advancement Barriers

Fatphobia in the workplace creates an unseen but formidable barrier to career advancement. Researchers have found that those subjected to weight-based discrimination experience heightened difficulty securing promotions or transitioning into leadership roles. This happens because biased perceptions cast shadows over their skills and qualifications. In essence, the discriminatory attitudes towards weight not only undermine the meritocracy of the workplace but also hinder the rightful recognition and advancement of these individuals.


  1. Impaired Confidence

The persistent exposure to fatphobia will gradually erode an individual's confidence which will significantly impede their capacity to undertake challenging projects or even pursue career advancement opportunities. This lack of self-confidence may manifest itself as a reluctance to take on leadership roles, to voice their opinion, or to actively seek out more challenging positions in the organization which, as we established above, will ultimately impact professional growth.


  1. Fear of Job Loss

The fear of job loss among individuals experiencing fatphobia is a palpable concern. This fear is rooted in the apprehension that their employment might be precarious due to workplace biases and unrealistic appearance standards. The pervasive societal pressure to conform to narrow beauty ideals can create a climate where individuals feel vulnerable and constantly worry about their job security. This not only induces stress and anxiety but also has the potential to stifle professional performance as individuals grapple with the added pressure to conform to arbitrary standards.


 As you can see, addressing fatphobia in the workplace is essential for creating an environment where career progression is based on skills, qualifications, and contributions rather than superficial judgments related to body size. Truly inclusive organizations create opportunities to break these barriers and foster equal opportunities for all employees.

In Part 3 of this series, we will focus on how fatphobia can be particularly detrimental to women.

Subscribe to The DEI+ Newsletter!

Sign up to get weekly tips and strategies about diversity, equity, and inclusion to help you increase your DEI IQ. Emails are guaranteed short and to the point!