Do You Really Need a “Sexy” Data Scientist?

October 16, 2017
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Tom Davenport and D.J. Patil argued in their Harvard Business Review article that being a data scientist is the sexiest job of the 21st century. Data scientists help companies turn their data (big data and small data) into valuable insights. But do the people who have the sexiest job of the 21st century have to be sexy?

The question is not as crazy as you might think, because sexy or beautiful people, both men and women, tend to be more successful in their job. Research shows that they earn more, get hired sooner, get promoted quicker, sell more, and even get a bank loan more easily than their less attractive counterparts. Believe that? Surprisingly, there’s substantial research to support the theory!

I have to say that I was surprised by the amount of solid research that supports the idea that physically attractive people are more successful. What made me research this a little was a conversation with a CEO of a well known global company. She insisted that anybody she hires into the company should have good looks. When I work with companies they often ask for my help in filling senior positions such as Chief Information Officers or Chief Data Scientists and looks was never one of my search criteria. But maybe it should be…here is why:

Research compiled by economics professor Daniel Hamermesh and published in his book Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful, shows very convincingly that beautiful people earn a higher salary than average looking folk. He also shows that good looking individuals are employed sooner, get promoted more quickly, and tend to have higher ranking jobs in companies. His work also confirms that attractive employees tend to bring in more money for their companies, and therefore will be seen as more successful. What’s more, this bias towards beauty goes beyond our careers. Hamermesh’s research even shows that beautiful people are more likely to have successful loan applications and pay lower interest rates than less beautiful people (even if everything else is equal).

In other research, Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at London School of Economics, shows that beautiful people tend to have higher intelligence than ugly people (especially if they are men). Furthermore, researchers David Ruth and Amy Hodges at Rice University show that people with more beautiful faces are more likely to be successful in job interviews.

So why should this be? Professor Dario Maestripieri from the University of Chicago concludes in his article ‘The truth about why beautiful people are more successful’ that it comes down to the ‘sex factor’. He basically argues that attractive people are more appealing as potential sex partners. This means that subconsciously (or not) we chose to interact and do business with attractive rather than ugly people – because it increases our chances to have sex with them.

Whether the ‘sex factor’ conclusion is the right one or not, it looks as if beauty might be seen as a key to success. So was my CEO client right to demand only beautiful candidates? I am still not convinced yet, but are you? Do you feel it’s time to up-date your LinkedIn profile picture and have a beauty make-over? What is your view on this? Would you hire a data scientist for their looks?

(image: sexy data scientist / shutterstock)