Personal Finance: Beauty and your bottom line

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Michelle Singletary
Thursday, August 5, 2010; 10:28 AM

The poet Oscar Wilde said: "It is better to be beautiful than to be good."

Sadly, Wilde--you were so right, especially in a down economy. When it comes to getting a job, pretty is definitely preferred, according to a new Newsweek survey. The magazine found that 57 percent of hiring managers believe an unattractive (but qualified) job candidate will have a harder time getting hired.

"In the current job market, paying attention to your looks isn't just about vanity, it's about economic survival," writes Jessica Bennett in Newsweek's special report The Beauty Advantage.

Newsweek surveyed about 200 corporate hiring managers, from human-resource employees to senior-level vice presidents. The result: From hiring to office politics to promotions, beauty matters. Sixty-four percent of hiring managers said they believe companies should be allowed to hire people based on looks. Two thirds of business managers said they believe some managers would hesitate before hiring a qualified job candidate who was significantly overweight.

On the flip side, if you are a woman, you can't look too good or sexy. Forty-seven percent of managers said they believe some women are penalized in the office for being too good-looking.

Read the Newsweek package and watch the video and then tell me: "Should beauty matter?" As you answer this question, think about whether you've ever used your looks to get a job or whether you've let looks influence a promotion or hire? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com and put "Beauty in the Workplace" in the subject line.

I started off with a great poet, so let me end with a witty line from one of my favorite characters. My take on this issue comes from Miss Piggy, who said: "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye."

Working Mom Woes

For decades many working mothers have felt guilty about dropping off their kids at daycare. But a recent study shows that certain factors may negate any harm daycare may cause in the early years.

Researchers at Columbia University found that infants raised by mothers with full-time jobs scored somewhat lower on cognitive tests, and these deficits persisted into first grade. However, the negative cognitive effects of daycare were offset when working mothers had higher income because they were more likely to be able to afford high-quality childcare.

"The study may bring hope to working mothers, who have labored under a collective societal guilt since the 2002 publication of landmark research showing that early maternal employment hampered child development," reports Post writer Daniel de Vise in Study: Working mothers not necessarily harmful to child development.

The current research is "every bit as important as you might think, because it suggests mothers can decide, without guilt, whether they want to stay home with their children," said Greg Duncan, a scholar at the University of California at Irvine, who is president of the Society for Research in Child Development.


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