What is the ‘Grooming Gap?’

On Behalf of | Jan 15, 2020 | Employment Law


Employers across Minnesota and Wisconsin are likely familiar with the gender gap, or the discrepancy between wages and opportunities for male and female employees. However, there is another type of gap that puts female workers at a disadvantage: the grooming gap.

The so-called grooming gap refers to physical appearance and hygiene standards that disproportionately affect women. These standards result in financial, professional, and personal consequences to females. Therefore, it is important for employers to understand this issue and avoid creating unfair policies.

Awarding appearance

As this recent Salon article found, female employees can earn more money and receive better positions or shifts when they are more attractive and conform to traditional beauty expectations. This creates an environment where employees – most often women – experience appearance discrimination.

Employers would be wise to avoid any practices that discriminate against workers based on appearance. This is especially true when it comes to standards that affect employees of different races, gender identity, or certain cultural backgrounds.

Unless such requirements are necessary for a job (e.g., general cleanliness, or certain physical capabilities), do not make policies requiring women to wear makeup, get manicures, be a certain weight, or wear their hair a particular way.

Buying beauty

Women spend far more on beauty and hygiene products than men do. The Salon article points out these numbers, in particular:

  • $8.00 – The daily cost of makeup that women wear every day, on average
  • $225,000.00 – The amount of money that women spend on makeup and skincare products in their lifetime
  • 42 percent – How much more women pay for products that are marketed specifically to women (also called the Pink Tax)
  • 55 minutes – The average amount of time a woman spends on hair and makeup every day
  • $473 million – The amount of money that African American women spend per year on hair care products, including weaves and relaxers

These numbers illustrate the added cost – in terms of time and money – it takes to keep up with appearance standards placed on women.

For these reasons, it is important for employers to recognize how much it could be costing their female workers to keep up with physical expectations, and to address problematic policies that further burden women’s opportunities for advancement.