Expend Your ‘Erotic Capital’ To Power Your Career?
Professor Catherine Hakim, an expert on women’s employment and theories of female positions in society, says to skip the historical notions of beauty and suggest that professional women should use their “erotic capital” to get ahead at work.
Hakim, professor of sociology at the London School of Economics, discusses the topic in detail in her book “Erotic Capital: Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom.”
Hakim coined the term “erotic capital” to cover beauty, social skills, good dress sense, physical fitness, liveliness, sex appeal and sexual competence – a combination that makes some people attractive to colleagues, friends, business contacts and partners.
According to Hakim, “These people smile at the world and the world smiles back,”
Rather than being ashamed to use beauty, formerly viewed as being of trivial and superficial value, women should use the “beauty premium” to their advantage and get ahead.
Hakim argues that we have no problem exploiting our other advantages – money (economic capital), intelligence and education (human capital), and contacts (social capital) – yet women still steer away from using erotic capital.
So why should we? According to Hakim, women are more charming, more graceful in social interaction and have more social intelligence than men, yet fail to exploit these advantages. Men, on the other hand, are ruthless about exploiting every asset available to them to get ahead in their careers, and are richer as a result. Women, however feel shy, embarrassed and ambivalent about admitting that they trade their looks, even if for good reason, to get ahead.
Hakim cites a U.S. survey which found that good-looking lawyers earn between 10 and 12 per cent more than their less attractive colleagues. Furthermore, attractive individuals are more likely to land a job and be promoted.
Putting an emphasis on appearance is often regarded as superficial or even cheating.
“Meritocracies are supposed to champion intelligence, qualifications, and experience. But physical and social attractiveness deliver substantial benefits in all social interaction – making a person more persuasive, able to secure the co-operation of colleagues, attract customers and sell products,” Hakim wrote in a column for the London Evening Standard.
According Hakim, the “beauty premium” is an important economic factor in our careers. The financial returns of attractiveness equal the returns of qualifications, as many young women now think that beauty is just as important as education.
The cumulative benefits of the marginal advantage at every stage of a career can be quite significant in the long run. Erotic capital may contribute a relatively small advantage to workers seeking jobs, promotion, or salary raises, but that marginal difference is growing in importance over time. Oh well, I have no capital to spend.