Are overweight men more likely to be promoted than overweight women?

boss with cigar

According to a recent Michigan State University study, overweight men are more likely to get promoted than overweight women. The study had medical professionals and other experts look at photos of 1000 bosses of top U.S. companies, and determine whether the people in the photos were overweight.

What they found was that approximately 60 percent of the male bosses were overweight, while in the general population, only about 41 percent of men in this age group are considered overweight. This was interpreted in the study to mean that being overweight could actually be a benefit to men seeking to climb up the corporate ladder.

Just 22 percent of female bosses were judged to be overweight, compared to 29 percent of females in the general population, which suggests that being overweight actually harms female executives when it comes to promotions.

The study found that being obese (defined in the study as 30 or more pounds overweight) appeared to hurt both men and women in the workplace.

Do you think overweight men get promoted more than overweight women? Is the old double standard still in effect in the modern workplace?

25 comments Add your comment


April 13th, 2009
9:06 am

My experience in the corporate world is that men and women who are tall get promoted more often than those who are short. Also, extroverts get promoted more often than introverts, despite the fact that many of these extroverts are totally incompetent. Weight does not seem to be an issue.


April 13th, 2009
9:13 am

Of course weight is an issue. People in the world think overweight people are lazy and do not take care of themselves. I have worked in coporate america for 15 years and for one of the top companies of all time. I have noticed thin men and women almost always get promoted and when someone overweight does, they are often called deragatory names having to do with their weight behind thier backs… sad, but very very true. I have noticed and it is not the way it should be that overweight people are discriminated against everyday of their lives. I see people stare at them, children laugh and people make judgements. I wish people didn’t do this to them.

Objective Thought

April 13th, 2009
9:19 am

What a junk study, there are millions of factors at work here. Consider this – Men who spend more hours on the job, have less time to excersise, therefore gaining weight and deserving a promotion, explaining why more bosses are overweight. Overweight and obese are 2 different things, not clearly discerned here.
Also, men who make more money can disregard appearance and still remain somewhat relative in finding and retaining a female mate, but no amount of money alone can make a woman skinny.
Yes “the old double standard” is, and will be in effect, until women value men solely on looks rather than: status, money, accomplishment, etc…


April 13th, 2009
9:36 am

I agree with Ron. I think it seems to be relevant to the introvert v. extroverts personality types. If you are an extrovert, people seem to naturally gravitate toward you (yes, even if the person is an idiot). I have come across many leaders who have big personalities but no knowledge. I have come across people who need to be in leadership positions but are introverted so people assume they are not leadership materials. (Oftentimes, these people reject leadership). Also, for men weight does not matter but it does for women. In fact, more women than men are promoted based on looks not their talent at all. This is why there is such a problem with female leadership because honestly many of then are incompetent. I DID NOT SAY WOMEN ARE NOT GREAT LEADERS but if you choose an idiot of any gender, race, etc.- you will have horrible leadership.


April 13th, 2009
9:48 am

If they can afford $60+ meals every day, I am sure all that good food is delicious!

Being overweight is a choice. If it truly bothered these people, they would consume less calories and excercise more. They make a personal choice everytime they choose what to eat and whether to do something active or something lazy.


April 13th, 2009
9:49 am

Please….people who get ahead in corporate America are the ones to make personal sacrifices of their time and energy. Generally speaking, this will tend to have negative impact on the old waistline. I hope there wasn’t a federal grant involved in this idiotic study.


April 13th, 2009
9:50 am

Is there a double standard between professional men & women when it comes to weight?

Does the sun rise in the east?

Is the Pope Catholic?

MacArthur O. Means

April 13th, 2009
10:11 am

I’m the boss. I’m 30 pounds overweight. Bite me.


April 13th, 2009
10:25 am

People who let their personal lives go to pot (no exercise, eat on the run, etc…) and let their life / work balance swing overwhelmingly towards work get promoted more because they spend much more time working. It is only fair they get promoted more… however, I will not make the choice to give my life to a company in order to move ahead. I’d rather know and enjoy my family and friends and spend as much time pursuing personal endeavors…

Not So Skinny Minnie

April 13th, 2009
10:51 am

Sadly, women, MUCH more so than men, are discriminated against, both professionally & personally, if they don’t meet society’s narrow standards of beauty. Matt, you are woefully ignorant. No one CHOOSES to be overweight. Overeating is an addiction, much like smoking, drugs, alchohol & gambling. BTW, I’ve known many overweight people who are anything BUT lazy in the workforce & by the same token, I’ve also known some thin slackers. You’re just letting your prejudices do your “thinking” (?!?) for you


April 13th, 2009
10:57 am

Fat men don’t like work, so they spend their time eating and brown nosing so they can be in charge. If you think not, you haven’t worked very long in the Federal world.


April 13th, 2009
11:08 am

Joyce – fat men spend their time eating so they can be in charge? What a well thought out and cogent statement. Even so, if that is the federal world, now officially nothing in bureuacracy surprises me.


April 13th, 2009
11:35 am

Those who get promoted to upper management positions were not overweight at first, but once they get that position watch that weight pile on. Those “business meals” carry a lot of weight.


April 13th, 2009
11:46 am

Maybe fat men are more intimidating that fat women, and that’s why they get promoted.

To all the healthy ^&%^$ out there, us fatties are not evil and lazy because we don’t exercise or because we like good food too often. Some of us (believe it or not!) are quite healthy. All I ask is that you all THINK before spouting off at the mouth about your “desirable” life-style. Do that, and I promise I won’t try to hit you with my car when I see you jogging down the road or in place at the traffic light. Just because you exercise 4 hours a day, 8 days a week, doesn’t make you better or smarter than anybody else. It just means you have little else to do with your lives


April 13th, 2009
11:48 am


You’re an idiot. Please think first.

And perhaps you’re not as successful as you’d like to be because you’re not that bright. Something to think about….


April 13th, 2009
1:19 pm

Not So Skinny Minnie,

I think you took this far too personally. I’ll try not to take your ‘woefully ignorant’ comment personally, so allow me to clarify. Fat people are not lazy or unproductive in the workplace at all, unless we are talking about a manual labor job. I know plenty of very hard working overweight people, but they do choose their condition. Just like smokers chose to smoke, drinkers chose to drink, gamblers chose to gamble. At some point in their life they made the decision to start heading down that path. It is the equivalent of having a messy room, except a messy room takes a few hours to fix- a messy body can take years. All that food tastes just as good to people in great shape as well, they just exhibit more self control.


Who is on here claiming to be superior to you? What does weight have to do with intelligence? I am sure there are fat and skinny people who are smarter than you or I. To ignore the countless medical facts relating obesity to heart disease is not very intellectually sounds, and threatening to run joggers over is just plain childish.

Not So Skinny Minnie

April 13th, 2009
5:15 pm

Ah, Matt, you must be one of those lucky people who’ve never had a weight problem, otherwise you’d know being fat is NOT a choice. Gee, I, personally, don’t remember ever waking up one morning, looking in the mirror & saying to myself “Ugh, I HATE my slim, trim perfect self. I think I’m gonna gain 40 pounds. I get sick of compliments, looking good, being treated nicely & feeling good.” Gaining weight is a gradual thing. You can’t pinpoint where/when the problem begins but then there comes a point where you realize there now IS a problem. And eating is the one unavoidable addiction, if one is cursed with an addictive personality. No one has to take that first cigarette, beer, crack pipe, etc, but we do have to eat. (Roekest, you ROCK!)


April 13th, 2009
6:51 pm

Overweight professional men are seen as being too busy to exercise. Similarly weighted women are labelled as lazy.


April 13th, 2009
11:37 pm

You are not stuck in that cycle. It will be hard to break, but you can do it. It will take a long time and a lot of sacrifice, but are you not capable of accomplishing anything you truly try to face? No matter your weight, if you look hard enough at yourself you’ll never be happy. The weight is something that you retain the option to control. I support you if you want to start facing this, it is not futile. Eat all the fresh fruits and vegetables you care to, never drink soda (diet sodas are just as bad), avoid processed carbs or sugars, and exercise whenever you get the chance (make chances, it can be fun). You’ll be faster, lighter, more capable in a dangerous situation, feel better, look more attractive, and you’ll probably live longer. I wish you the best.

Not So Skinny Minnie

April 14th, 2009
9:03 am

Matt, you ARE right but I wish it were that simple. Ask just about any overweight person, myself included, I openly admit, but I think we’ve all been on that lose weight/gain it back rollercoaster. Very frustrating, especially since during our “thin” periods, we do look & feel better by far


April 14th, 2009
10:44 am

Just so you know, matt is fat.


April 14th, 2009
8:09 pm

who told you :(

[...] we had a good discussion about the impact being overweight had on promotions. Men with a few extra pounds fared better than their female [...]


May 27th, 2009
5:23 pm

I just came across your Blog. I’m an overweight Businesswoman. It has taken a lot of hard work for me to get to where i am today. Long working hours, eating at my desk, commute travel and stress and convenience food has me overweight. Not because i’m lazy but because i’m too busy and allow my physical conditioning to go out of control. Every day i deal with more and more overweight business people. In fact i suspect most of us at executive level will all be overweight in a few years time. Many businesswomen like me are heavy not from laziness but career drive. Yet we do get snide remarks, mainly i notice from other women. No one heads the slim woman who takes the lift how ever when i take it i’m a fat lazy cow


October 13th, 2009
6:22 pm

I’m not surprised that people like Matt, think that being overweight is a choice. That’s a HUGE misconception, that’s perpetuated by those who’ve never had trouble keeping thin. In my case, I’ve fought with my weight since puberty.

Before puberty, I was as thin as a toothpick. But, by age 10, my weight mushroomed. During those years, I was always a hyperactive child. I ran, swam, did gymnastics, played softball, marched in the band, etc. All that physical activity though, never stopped me from piling on the pounds. My parents made sure that I didn’t eat much junk food, and our meals were eaten at home. I never pigged-out on calorie laden fast-food.

ALL of the females in my family put on lots of weight during puberty, regardless of their eating and exercise habits. I truly believe that problems with being overweight are heredity, for many people
like me. I now eat organic fruits, veggies, low-fat meats and seafood, and don’t eat sugar, desserts, processed foods, red meat, eggs or fried-foods. I move around too, though I’m no athlete. And yes, I am still overweight. I believe that everyone should eat healthy foods, and get some form of exercise.
Doing these things however, does NOT guarantee that you’ll be thin. You can be overweight and still healthy, if you have a healthy lifestyle. Some of us are just genetically bound to be overweight (or at least not thin).