I recently worked with an intern so stunning that men tripped over themselves to assist her...with everything but work-related tasks. The odd thing was she took work seriously, was professional, and didn't flaunt her beauty.
Still, it was all the men seemed to see when dealing with her. I later wondered if her beauty - though it may fade in time - would haunt her more than help her through her career. Despite her hard work and dedication to work, any reflection on this woman's, um, assets was purely focused on her physical assets. She was definitely smart, but people didn't recognize that. She was hard-working, but people didn't mention it. The glaring memory was of her beauty.
At work, unless you're a model, can being beautiful or handsome create its own prejudice? Do people judge you as smarter or dumb, as if you're riding on your looks, as if you can't be taken seriously?
Years ago, I read an article where a woman knew her looks got her in most doors. Like an echo, she constantly heard in her mind, "You only have this because you're pretty." To test her theory, she gained 20 pounds, wore glasses, and eschewed makeup for months. The scales evened a bit for her, and even she felt reassurance that any professional strides she made were purely of her own doing.
When I get ready for work, I walk a fine line: wear makeup and look presentable, but don't put in the elbow grease it takes for a date. No one is supposed to judge me on my looks, for better or worse. When I think back on the intern, I remember that she felt a double-edged sword: Her beauty probably wasn't her biggest asset, but no one took the time to look beyond that. And as she works to build a career in a male-dominated industry, it will hinder her as much as help her.