The Weight Bias Against Women in the Workforce Is Real – and It’s Getting Worse
“Pat, you think I eat too much?” Ginni Rometty asked her boss Pat O’Brien at IBM, more than 30 years ago.
O’Brien was talking to Rometty about her weight, exhorting her to get in “good physical shape” if she wanted to become a high-level executive. Rometty recounts she’d been “chubby” as a little girl. “Gaining and losing weight was a cycle” she was all too familiar with.
But it was the first time her appearance had come up as an obstacle to her career aspirations — though it didn’t stop her. Rometty went on to become the first female CEO of IBM, in its 100-year history.
She recounts this incident in her memoir “Good Power,” released last month. She actually gained weight after that conversation, so her weight didn’t hinder her own career. But Rometty acknowledges that women are judged more harshly than men on appearance in the workplace, and she laments that nothing has changed.
Indeed, study after study over decades has shown that the workplace can impose an unfair weight penalty on women who are seen as overweight or obese.