To read this content please select one of the options below:

Physical Appearance as Invisible Discrimination

Management and Diversity

ISBN: 978-1-78635-490-7, eISBN: 978-1-78635-489-1

Publication date: 18 October 2017


Physical appearances constitute a criterion of discrimination recognised by the French law. This topic is often raised in the field of media and advertising, but the consequences of stereotypes and prejudices about appearances at work are not taken into account as much. However, this criterion is subject to a multitude of normative injunctions, located in time and space, and significantly affects all spheres of life. Voluntary or involuntary transgression of these norms leads to processes of segregation, discrimination and harassment. These processes are all the more insidious because their legitimacy is less questioned than when it concerns a criterion shared by a collective such as race or gender. Appearances are, in fact, perceived as individual characteristics; moreover, some of them are perceived as controllable, which justifies the unfavourable treatment of people who do not fit the norm.

At work, recruitment is the most obvious step in which appearances play a role because first impressions are largely based on them. But remuneration or daily life at the office is also affected by beliefs and expectations about appearances. After presenting testimonies from focus groups on this issue, we offer some advices for organisations concerned by the topic.



Barth, I. and Wagner, A.-L. (2017), "Physical Appearance as Invisible Discrimination", Chanlat, J.-F. and Özbligin, M.F. (Ed.) Management and Diversity (International Perspectives on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 4), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 127-146.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017 Emerald Publishing Limited