my boss only wants to hire attractive young women

Announcement: At 2 pm ET today, it’s part of 2 of last month’s speed round! Last month’s speed round had 700+ questions submitted, so this time I’ll be answering some of the questions I didn’t get to in round 1. Follow along live on the home page later today.

A reader writes:

My boss, Todd, who is the company CEO, believes that we should hire attractive women for roles on my team. Role A’s primary responsibility is to cold call prospects and convince them to take a meeting with our sales team. Role B may occasionally involve coordinating virtual events with our customers and prospects. Our market is primarily middle-aged men, and my boss believes that they will be more receptive to these outreaches if they’re attracted to the person making the request.

We do have an attractive, young woman (Pam) in Role A right now. Recently, one of our prospects told a sales rep that he had only shown up for the sales meeting because Pam “sounded hot.” That prospect ended up not being a good fit. I know of one call where Pam was harassed by a prospect who pressured her to meet him for drinks. Pam deferred and the prospect never agreed to a meeting. From the metrics, there is no evidence that Pam outperforms her male colleagues in terms of booking meetings, and she actually has the lowest show rate for her meetings.

I have told Todd that I don’t believe this is an effective business strategy, citing the data and examples above. But he keeps bringing it up, referencing pharmaceutical sales as an example of using women’s attractiveness as an advantage in prospecting.

What I haven’t told Todd is that personally (and as a woman myself), I find the idea reprehensible and exploitative (and possibly illegal?). I feel like he wants me to dangle inexperienced young women as bait to lure in leering creeps. He would likely brush that off by saying that (1) my responsibility and priority is to optimize the team to get the most meetings and (2) young women who are dedicated and smart should want to use their attractiveness as a professional advantage.

The whole thing might be moot depending on the candidates we get. Maybe the most qualified candidate just happens to also be an attractive young woman and he can feel like he got a win. Or maybe no attractive young women apply and we have to choose somebody who doesn’t meet his gross requirements.

Or maybe I should just quit.

Eeeww, Todd sucks.

Where to even begin!

First, yes, it is indeed illegal in every state in the U.S. to factor candidates’ sex or youth into a hiring decision. It violates the federal laws against sexual discrimination and age discrimination. (A few jurisdictions also make it illegal to discriminate based on appearance, but not federally.)

Then there’s the fact that Todd wants to use young women for this purpose at all — to, as you say, dangle them as bait to attract men who by definition are more likely to be leering creeps. That’s gross enough, but I also assume he’s doing this without the consent of the women involved, since presumably he’s not explaining his “strategy” to candidates before hiring them. Imagine starting a new job, which you felt good about getting on merit, and then realizing that you’re actually there to be bait for men.

Then there’s the fact that Todd’s strategy doesn’t even work! It just draws in men who want dates, not sales meetings. (To be clear, even if the strategy did work, it still wouldn’t be okay! The fact that it doesn’t is just icing on Todd’s sexist cake of misogyny.)

As for what to do, your best bet is to tell Todd flatly, “This would violate federal discrimination laws and we can’t do it.” And if he keeps pushing, keep up a flat response of, “It’s illegal so we can’t do it.” Or, “I’m not willing to violate the law, and we could get in legal trouble for this.” Feel free to add, “It’s also really gross and I am not willing to do it.” (But if you’re more comfortable sticking to the law, that’s perfectly fine too.)

Whether or not to quit is up to you. I would love to tell you to! Todd deserves to lose his employees. Todd shouldn’t be running a business. But since there are a lot of Todds out there (some more open about their Todd-ness than others), what makes the most sense is probably to look at Todd and the company more broadly — does sexism pop up in other ways there (I’m guessing yes)? What’s your experience there been generally, and that of other women? Is Todd’s judgment this off in other areas too? Basically, take this as a flag to step back and look at the whole picture of what’s going on and decide if you want to be a part of it.

Read an update to this letter

{ 282 comments… read them below }

  1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    If he’s using the pharma rep thing as his business case study, he’s just objectively a terrible businessman, too.

    1. Lilo*

      The weird thing is I remember most of the pharma reps who came by my Dad’s office were middle aged mom types. They often brought lunch (I believe this is now prohibited, my Dad was a bit leery but he allowed it because the receptionists really enjoyed it and he didn’t want to yank a perk from them).

      1. Melanie Cavill*

        I’ve never worked with a company that did business with pharma but at my last job, our vendors were always bringing us food. We drowned in cookies at Christmas time. I think that’s pretty normal for a business with bids. If I was a receptionist, I’d be jumping at the free lunch too.

        1. Lilo*

          It’s a bit different when it raises a question of affecting a doctor’s prescribing decisions. And in some jobs it’s not allowed at all. My husband works for the government and vendors aren’t allowed to buy him lunch.

          1. Koalafied*

            Yeah, it’s one of those things that’s really common in some areas and completely verboten in others. If my department chooses to use Devon’s Print Shop instead of Printz R Us for our quarterly newsletter mailing because Devon’s gives us a personal touch that includes holiday gifts, nobody’s really harmed by that – it’s our budget and our mailing and our prerogative if we want to collect personal benefits for steering the direction of our own product. But if you’re spending taxpayer money or making decisions about products you steer third parties to, a conflict of interest arises where if harm is done, it comes to other people and not just your own team’s sales numbers. Of course, the vendors aren’t going to make the decision on their own not to engage in these practices – it’s up to the clients to make it clear if they can’t/won’t accept gifts or incentives like that.

          2. Hannah Lee*

            Exactly! A good friend has worked as a clinical pharmacist in hospital settings for her entire career. When she first started out, the “attractive female pharma rep brings lunch” was pretty common. And anyone who took their clinical responsibilities seriously thought it was obnoxious and awful way to do business.
            She sometimes had to push back on doctors who were trying to prescribe some medicine that they’d recently been marketed, even though there were other better options (more effective, fewer side effects, safer for that particular patient, less expensive).

            More recently, that type of pharmaceutical marketing to prescribers, other clinicians has been prohibited in the hospital she works with, and most of the affiliated medical practices. There are still some pharma firms that try to skirt it, and practitioners who allow it, but that doesn’t mean it’s a great idea, or that it isn’t still gross and sexist.

        2. Clobberin' Time*

          There’s a long and ugly history of pharma companies going well beyond “sales rep brings everybody treats” to, essentially, bribe doctors.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        I don’t think it is prohibited in any legal sense. Rather, the various companies got into an inflationary spiral bidding against each other, and called a truce. My information is a couple of decades out of date, but my understanding is that they still did small-scale stuff, but cut out sending doctors to “conferences” on tropical islands and the like.

        1. lyonite*

          No, the Sunshine Act from a few years ago really changed what pharma companies were allowed to give to doctors. (Basically, nothing that could be seen to have value, even pens.) I think the amount spent on food was also really limited. (I’ve worked for pharma companies, and even though I’ve never been anywhere near a sales role I had to do the training every year. Frankly, if I’m going to spend that much time learning how not to bribe doctors, I think the sales reps should have to come in and learn to use the eyewash station, but that’s neither here nor there.)

          1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

            100%. I have a friend who’s a drug rep who often complains about how much they are limited legally. (And to be fair some of the rules do sound a bit silly.) I have known reps for many decades and the rules are VERY different now, and the changes were imposed on them by the government.

          2. nona*

            I think there’s a nuance where if there is a direct or indirect (food, pens) transfer of more than like, $10, the manufacturer (pharma, med device, etc.) has to *report* it. So, you can do it, but then you have to report it (that’s the sunshine/transparency part). So it’s easier to not do some things so you don’t have to report it.

            It makes the transaction painful enough (the reporting, or answering about the amounts being spent) that a company will focus on the activities that are worth the pain of reporting.

            But yeah, there are actual federal laws around this stuff now.

          3. Richard Hershberger*

            Thanks for the information. That will teach me not to keep up. Actually, come to think of it, I am probably happier not keeping up with pharmaceutical sales techniques. It certainly didn’t make me happier, back I came by this information professionally.

      3. Love & other drugs*

        As a former pharma sales rep I can say:

        1. Bringing lunch is not prohibited as long as it also means there will be an educational component (some sort of technical, medical presentation)
        2. Any amount over $10 in value transferred to a physician needs to be reported to the government (yes, that includes food) so the meals are not lavish, at all. And if the total aggregate amount for the year exceeds $100 pharma companies need to declare that as well (say, the physician attended 11 meals that were a little under $10 dollars)
        3. ANYONE can check how much money their doctors are receiving from pharma companies right here:

        FINALLY: most pharma companies no longer focus on hiring good looking sales reps… they aren’t necessarily the most effective. In my experience, the best sales reps were really friendly, knowledgeable people who genuinely believed in the product and knew how to listen and respond to the physician’s needs and objections.

        1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

          The article that shook up the tech world from 2014 was the “Booth Babes Don’t Convert” A/B test. Someone staffing for a trade show where the company had two booths hired conventional “marketing events consultants” for one booth, and experienced local talent with people skills for the other. As you might expect, the booth that had the people skills did much, much better.

          1. Despachito*

            Thank you, this was very informative! The gross tactics does not even work.

            I was especially grossed out by the people involved mentioning “grannies” as dismissive, as if “how dare you to bring those ugly old hags to OUR important event! their appearance will ruin it and I do not even think they might have relevant experience.”

            And at the long last, the “grannies” brought much larger profit to those stupid and gross people.

        2. tamarack and fireweed*

          This was educational. I decided to look up my dentist (who is excellent). Apparently some medical equipment rep treated him to food of a value of just under $12 some time in 2016. And that was all.

        1. TheRabidFangirl*

          I’m pretty sure they meant these were middle-aged women that acted in a caring, “mom-like” way.

      4. DJ Abbott*

        My understanding is a law was made around 20 years ago that medical practices could not accept gifts of any kind from reps. I thought it was a federal law, but since you’re saying it still happens, maybe it’s a state law (Illinois).
        Before that law there was an open culture of doctors refusing to see reps unless they bought lunch for the office. Of course not all doctors or practices did this, but it was common enough to raise alarms for lawmakers. Now, reps can’t even give as much as a pen to a practicing doctor.
        The show Dopesick on Hulu shows a little bit of this culture and the things that could happen.

  2. Ferret*

    Ugh Todd is the worst. Quick question though, as I am not in the US. Is this a situation where the size of the company could affect how illegal this might be? Asking as I know the number of employees can affect which federal or state laws might apply which might factor into LW’s options

    1. Need More Sunshine*

      Yes, federal laws about protected classes kick in at 15+ employees. State law would depend, but either way, the more stringent law wins out, so if the state law kicks in at a lower count, they would have to follow that.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I don’t think I understand this – so a company below 15 employees (which is more than any job I’ve worked at, in my field) – can blatantly hire or fire someone for their sex or race ? That can’t be right.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Some states have their own laws that kick in at lower thresholds. But yes, at the federal level all discrimination laws start at 15+ employees. The reasoning when the laws were created was that defending themselves would be a higher burden for small businesses.

  3. So Tired*

    I’m seconding the ew here. Todd is disgusting, and I hope (though also very much doubt) that pointing out the legality will make him drop this.

    I also hope Pam is doing ok and someone checked in with her after she was harassed by that guy wanting drinks.

    1. Koalafied*

      Yep, to Alison’s point about imagining learning you were hired for your attractiveness to potential clients – pretty much my immediate horrible realization would be, “Management is not going to protect me from harassment. They will expect me at best to ignore it, and at worst to encourage/go along with it.”

      It’s not like Todd is thinking, “Most men will just be interested in Pam enough to attend the meeting and OF COURSE they wouldn’t be creepy about it and for the few that might get creepy we’d intervene!” Todd is thinking, “Men will be interested in Pam enough to attend the meeting.” Full stop. Dollars to donuts he has not given one idle thought to what it would be like for Pam.

      1. Worldwalker*

        Because he doesn’t see Pam as a real person. “People” are limited to people like himself. At best, he assumes Pam thinks the way he does: “prospective clients leering at the sales rep is a good thing” … he can’t imagine any other way of thinking. If it’s good for him, it’s good for everyone else too. At worst, he doesn’t consider Pam to be a real human being at all — just “a female” who, as any incel can tell you, is the property of any male that wants her.

        1. ferrina*

          Yeah….I worked for a CEO who seemed reasonable enough, but in time it became clear that he didn’t think of women as “people”. He promoted male employees based on Potential, but would always find a reason not to promote a female (in 5 years, every female promotion I saw was when he was backed into a corner). When a male supervisor sexually assaulted his direct report, the CEO didn’t fire him because he didn’t want to “ruin a man’s career over a mistake”.

          The assaulter had other female direct reports who were not warned about this behavior or given any way to protect themselves. When one of these women learned about this later, and the CEO told her why he chose to protect the assaulter, she asked the CEO directly “What about me?” He looked at her blankly- he clearly hadn’t thought about her at all.

          1. Elbe*

            That is so awful. People like that should never be in positions of power. You have to have some serious issues with women to think that protecting someone who committed assault is more reasonable that protecting someone who hasn’t done anything wrong.

              1. Irish Teacher.*

                Yeah, that was my thought. A mistake is forgetting to order more paper for the photocopier, not attacking somebody. What WOULD be a valid reason to fire that guy in the manager’s mind?

      2. Observer*

        Dollars to donuts he has not given one idle thought to what it would be like for Pam.

        Of course he didn’t! This is not someone who would care.

      3. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yup, Todd’s attitude is from that wonderful time period where men took all the credit for women’s achievements and women (and minorities) were erased from history. Women were supposed to support the men In All Things and those who didn’t were called hysterical and/or institutionalized for even trying to do something besides keep house and raise children. (I know some women did get credit for the amazing things they did, but so many of them were tamped down by the patriarchy that it’s infuriating.) So men didn’t at all think about what the women wanted, it didn’t even cross their minds that women could have wants aside from supporting all the men in their lives. I hate it. I hope we’re getting past that now but it’s disheartening to hear about this Todd and know that of course plenty of other Todds still exist. OP, I hope you can knock some sense into this Todd but if not I wouldn’t blame you one bit for quitting.

    2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      I’m very sure that Todd uses this strategy because it would work on him–which means he could start creeping on any attractive, young woman who works for him. OP, do you want to work for someone like that? Run away quickly.

      1. My+Useless+2+Cents*

        The thing is…. it doesn’t even make sense. The first step is the process is *cold calling*. You don’t even see the person! My mind is full of those scenes in movies where the main character meet the phone sex lady with the incredible voice and it’s some old lady with pink hair and over the top “Tammy Faye” makeup.

    3. Observer*

      I also hope Pam is doing ok and someone checked in with her after she was harassed by that guy wanting drinks.


      More than that – I hope she wasn’t penalized or even given a bit of a hard time over not acquiescing.

    4. OP*

      This was a few months ago but yes, Pam’s manager and I definitely communicated to Pam that if she ever felt uncomfortable on a call she could (and should) hang up and mark that prospect as Do Not Contact.

      But even being protected costs Pam.

      She earns commission on every meeting she books and it pisses me off to think she has to do the calculation of “should I hang up on this creep or put up with it so I can hit quota?” Her male colleagues don’t have that burden.

    5. Clobberin' Time*

      Todd doesn’t even care about the effectiveness of his dumb plan, much less whether it is legal or would get the company sued. What Todd cares about is his fantasy of impressing other men, like these vendors, by showing that Todd has a lot of attractive young women working for him. You are not going to be able to logic him out of this. Best case scenario is that he will reluctantly agree and then sulk.

      OP, you may well want to look for another job, but you should absolutely put in a quiet word with Pam about Todd’s ‘strategy’.

  4. my cat is prettier than me*

    If I found out my appearance was a factor in me getting hired, I would be livid. As a front desk person, I always have that sneaking suspicion. Todd is gross and I hope the next time he orders a sandwich from a restaurant they forget the cheese.

    1. JP*

      I was told when I was 19 or 20 that the only reason I got a cashier position at an office supply store was because the manager likes to staff pretty, young women at the front end of the store. It was a gross feeling, even for a low level job that I knew I wasn’t going to be staying in long term.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Ugh. I had a part time job at a bodega-style store where the owner would only hire women because they were “easier to work with than men.”

        Rather unsurprisingly most of the employees quit unceremoniously.

        1. Delta Delta*

          Interestingly, my brother worked at a bodega-style store (think: the kind of place that sells loose cigarettes on purpose) that would only hire young men because they were in a shady part of town where people would necessarily have to walk to work or park far away, and the owner didn’t want any young women to get attacked when they closed late at night. Not better, but I understand the owner’s train of thought. And the owner was a woman.

          1. Observer*

            Not better,

            From a legal point of view, not better. From a MORAL point of view? Infinitely better! I don’t think it’s the right way to deal with the situation. But there is a world of a difference between a Todd and a person who at least TRIES to keep their staff safe, even if they go about it in the wrong way.

          2. Elbe*

            Missing out on an opportunity is never good, but “this job isn’t safe for you” is much more compassionate logic than “this job can exploit you.” It’s horrible that the bodega owner has to factor that in to hiring decisions, because she doesn’t want to feel like she’s luring people into harm’s way.

        2. Very anonymous this time*

          Years ago, I sent an email from an anonymous address to the corporate office of a large fast food chain. I complained that the local franchisee was well-known by locals for only hiring teenaged girls…..that males or older women need not apply. I have never told this to anyone. My friend who works in a business this franchise owner frequents, said he was complaining that he’d been audited by the corporate people and told to comply with employment laws. Lots of variety in employees now. :)

        3. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Easier to work with? As in, easier to intimidate because women are more groomed to just let intimidation go rather than call the owner on it?

      2. NB*

        I am a management consultant. In the final, day-long interview for my very first job out of college at a big, big firm, the (female) partner conducting the final interview of the day told me “you have the right look to be a consultant”. It made me feel gross, too, and made me wonder if I hadn’t looked the way I did back then if I would have still gotten the job.

        1. Worldwalker*

          TFG was open about wanting people (from aides to generals) who “looked the part” whether or not they were actually competent (or would write a tell-all book a year later) — but he was just saying the quiet part out loud. I would venture to guess that a lot of people have an idea of what a consultant, or a general, or a sales rep, “should” look like, and that factors into hiring decisions whether or not they’ll admit — or even recognize — it.

          Worthy of note: an orchestra claimed to be hiring musicians based only on their skill, but when they started having musicians play behind a screen in auditions, the percentage of women among the hires shot up dramatically.

          1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

            And when they carpeted the stage (so the judges couldn’t hear the women’s heels as they walked to their instrument), it increased even more! Unconscious bias is a hell of thing.

      3. Beth*

        When we hired a new person some years ago as an administrative assistant and receptionist, I kept a very sharp eye on my male colleagues to make sure they weren’t making crass comments about her looks. (She was, and is, younger than they are and conventionally attractive.) To my relief, I never heard anything along those lines, even from the top-level guy who sometimes forgets to filter.

        She turned out to be a fantastic hire and is about to be promoted again.

      4. Mockingjay*

        Worked in a local pizza place in college (80s recession, all I could get). Owner only hired pretty high school and college girls on the premise that they would bring their boyfriend and friends in. They did. They gave them free pizza and sandwiches and the owner ended up closing due to insufficient sales.

      5. Hannah Lee*

        There’s a local upscale restaurant that I tried once when it opened. The food was pretty good, but I’ve never been back. Because it was clear from that visit that the owner only staffed the (hostess? maitre-d? whatever you call the person in a restaurant that greets and seats people, etc) with young WPH conventionally attractive women with a certain look – long hair, blonde with lots of highlights, pretty well endowed, etc. There was not a tomboy or a 30-something in the bunch. (and no women I could see at the back of the house or bar … those were all staffed by men of various ages shapes sizes)

        It’s on a main street in town and I walk by that place a lot, and what I’ve seen on that first impression has held true every time I walked by there. Nothing against those women, but if I’m going out to eat, I’d rather not support the guy who owns that place and runs it like that.

        I remember back when I worked at the local bank PT in high school*, you could reliably predict which position would be offered to other women in their teens, 20’s applying: if they were “attractive” they were offered a job in lobby customer service or as a teller, if they looked bookish or not WPH or otherwise not conventionally attractive? File clerk out of the public eye it was. Note that for PT employees, the lobby or teller line jobs offered more flexibility in hours and more opportunities for raises. So this working woman has seen that kind of nonsense her entire working life.

        * that was also the workplace where one of senior CS reps told me the story of when she first started working as a CS rep back when she was 20 something. She loved her job, was really good at it, took great pride in it. And she was even happier when her boyfriend proposed! She felt like she really was going to have it all. Shortly before her wedding, the bank management threw her a party … she thought it was to celebrate her upcoming wedding. It was, kind of. But it was also a going away party. Because of COURSE they would never have a married woman on staff. She needed to be home tending to her husband, not out working.

        1. Very Social*

          What is WPH here? I thought maybe it was “white presenting ___” but google isn’t giving me anything helpful. (Wages Per Hour? Women Performing Handstands? Weight in Proportion to Height, and if so, what’s the proportion?)

    2. t-vex*

      Now I am wondering whether the person who forgot to put the tuna in my tuna sandwich that one time was trying to tell me something

      1. Pennyworth*

        In my first job it was usual for entry level employees to order and collect their managers sandwiches. My friend was once upset with her manager and ordered double hot English mustard on her sandwich. Manager never guessed it was deliberate.

    3. Sloanicota*

      I also think it’s a weird strategy. I remember on some TV show – I wanna say it was Burn Notice – the voiceover said that the problem with using a pretty girl as a lure is that then guys tend to want them to hang around. If you want someone to come in, do business, and leave briskly – which most businesses do – it doesn’t make sense to hire only an attractive girls. And as Alison said, what these guys want is to date / sleep with / get attention from pretty young women, so even if they’re less likely to say “no” to a request, that’s not necessarily correlated with your business purpose.

      1. Koalafied*

        Yes! In marketing we refer to this as “lead qualification.”

        A qualified lead is someone whose contact information you have obtained, who has given any kind of signal that they’re interested in what you’re selling and prepared to make a purchase.

        An unqualified lead is just someone whose contact information you have obtained.

        Qualified leads convert to customers at orders of magnitude higher rates than unqualified leads. They are worth so much more and make marketing so much more efficient that they’re the only kind of leads that skilled marketers working for legitimate companies want to use. Reliance on unqualified leads as a strategy for customer acquisition is a mark of either a scam business that doesn’t need to be efficient with their marketing because they’re scamming people instead of running a real business, or a very inexperienced marketer who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

        1. ferrina*

          Yes! Thanks for this professional breakdown. I work sales adjacent, and unqualified leads are a waste of everyone’s time.

          1. Worldwalker*

            A website client once wanted to have some Java games on their website — think simple puzzles, Mastermind, that kind of thing. Their reason was that they had read that people who linger longer on websites buy more. I’m not sure I *ever* convinced them that those are people who spend time on the site because they’re shopping, not because they’re playing games. He was so hung up on “the more time the spend on the website, the more money they spend” with no concept of why what they’re spending the time *doing* that matters.

            And regarding qualified versus unqualified leads: the one metric that matters is conversions. A thousand people who dropped their business card in the box to win a free dinner aren’t worth as much as the ten people who stopped to discuss the life insurance/windows/whatever you’re selling. And you’ll probably annoy them by spamming them about life insurance, too, and they’ll remember it when they need your services and go to your competition.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              And you’ll probably annoy them by spamming them about life insurance, too, and they’ll remember it when they need your services and go to your competition.

              Not sure why so many businesses can’t get that into their head. You’re gonna cold call me and offer me services I don’t want? Thanks, I’ll remember that when I actually do want those kinds of services and NOT buy them from you.

              1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                Yeah, my “list of businesses I will not be contacting” is built, ring by annoying ring, from the people who ignore my no solicitors sign.

    4. Bunny Girl*

      When I was younger I worked at a gym at the front desk and during a meeting with the front desk staff (all young women) our boss blatantly told us he hired us because we were all young, thin, and attractive and he was hoping to use us for advertising purposes and to draw customers in. For the record, it totally backfired because our gym kind of catered to an older male crowd who just saw us as young women that they could completely ignore.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I’m *not* defending this at all, but at least there’s a certain logic in hiring “aspirational” employees if you’re selling a gym or a spa membership, like having attractive models wear your clothes – because your customer is someone who wants to look like these employees so they might pick your product. That’s still pretty crappy as a business plan, but I see some logic. Hiring young women on the theory that they will lure in horny dudes is way worse!!

          1. Worldwalker*

            It’s not any sort of phobia. It’s the idea that “if I go to this gym, I can look like that” (or have lots of friends because I drink the right soda, get laid because I use the right toothpaste, get a better job because of this, be happy because of that).

            People who are satisfied with their physical condition and body shape rarely go to gyms. The people who go to gyms are the ones who want to change something about themselves — and generally, they want to look less like me and more like my physical therapist.

            In general, if a business is selling something personal, they want to showcase that product in some way. Hair stylists don’t have disheveled, uncombed hair. People working in clothing stores don’t wear scrubs (unless that’s what the store sells, in which case they don’t wear other things). And, yes, people who work in gyms generally look like they work out in those gyms, too. It’s the same basic idea.

            1. allathian*

              Yes, and the boutique I buy most of my clothes from caters to plus size people who dress in women’s clothes regardless of gender, and all of their salespeople are fat enough to wear their clothes. I know for myself that I feel a lot more comfortable trying on clothes with a salesperson who looks more or less like me, and who understands the problems of findning nice clothes for a fat body because she’s experienced them herself. Their hiring policy isn’t illegal here, because they’re hiring from a group that other (clothing) stores are less likely to want to hire.

            2. Starbuck*

              “people who work in gyms generally look like they work out in those gyms, too. It’s the same basic idea.”

              Yes, thanks for the excellent example of what fatphobia and ableism sounds like in practice. And for describing the *exact* attitude that make it challenging for fat people and disabled people to feel comfortable going to the gym. Sheesh.

            3. tamarack and fireweed*

              If you recruit gym employees from a pool of gym users you’ll still end up with a range of body shapes, and a good number will not be conventionally attractive. Most regular gym users do not look like an “aspirational”, thin, young poster child for how daily training.

              That’s not really comparable to a hair salon where every employee has visibly professionally styled hair (duh).

          2. linger*

            It’s a strategy called “associative logic”: implying a logical or causal connection of one thing with another through mere juxtaposition, whereby proximity creates an association — e.g. of use of a product or service with some conventionally desirable user quality or outcome.
            Not strictly logically valid at all, but nevertheless widely used in advertising.

        1. Dinwar*

          The gym membership thing can backfire, though. And the opposite is often true.

          There’s a woman in my kids’ karate studio that’s very overweight. She’s there three times a week, working to improve her fitness. And the studio owner has realized that since she came in, adult memberships have gone up. She’s friendly, outgoing, and encouraging to the folks in the class, which helps.

          The logic is pretty simple: If all you see is hot, athletic people in the gym (even as trainers), the overweight people feel out of place and discouraged and finally give up. It makes the gym (or dojo, or whatever) more a social club that involves lifting heavy things. If you have people of a variety of body sizes, including obese people working to lose weight, people internalize the idea that this isn’t a social club, it’s a place to work out.

          Same with models. I’ve known women who refuse to even walk into certain stores because all the models for those brands weigh 90 lbs, so obviously nothing there is going to fit ME. There are a LOT more 180+ lb women than there are 90 lb women. Lots of missed market there.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Heck, as one of those 90 lb adults, I don’t shop at those stores because their clothes are crap! My favorite clothes come from places that cater to 180+ lb adults because those clothes are actually designed to be worn multiple times by real human beings, not worn once and thrown away.

    5. OP*

      If he tries to create some straw woman who deliberately uses her feminine wiles to succeed in sales (as if we’re looking for the women would choose to be bait), then I will definitely rebut that with “so then you’ll have no problem telling candidates that their appearance is part of our hiring criteria? should I put that in the job posting?”

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Please update if he comes up with some version of, “you don’t have to spell it out. Attractive women understand why they get hired.”
        Because I’m feeling that is in his mind somewhere.

      1. DisneyChannelThis*

        That link doesn’t work on PC at least. Goes to a page with another link, then that link says “The speed round has now happened (you can read it here) so I am closing this form.”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m not taking new questions for it — just answering questions that were left over from last month’s speed round. (Last month got 700+ questions so there were a lot I didn’t get to!) I’ll clarify in the wording at the top.

  5. Ann Ominous*

    Depending on what kind of relationship you have with Todd, you could also add to the illegal comment Alison suggested by saying ‘not only is it illegal, it is also setting women up to be harassed by people who are more interested in dates than sales, and I’m not comfortable doing that either” (me being who I am, I’d also make a comment about not wanting to be a “Ghislaine Maxwell lite”, but your mileage will absolutely vary on that).

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      *filing that comment away for hopefully never future use*
      But totally classic and if I were OP I would totally use it right now

    2. alienor*

      Plus, what’s going to happen if it goes beyond harassment (which is more than bad enough on its own) and Pam or some future female rep is physically assaulted? With the sort of inappropriate creepers Todd is trying to draw in, that seems very possible.

      1. NotRealAnonforThis*

        I absolutely HATE that this is a likelihood and an honest question where there is probably some sort of case precedent.

    3. EPLawyer*

      Yeah. Op said they were avoiding saying that it was gross and exploitative. but honestly Todd in all his Toddness needs to hear this. By softening the message, its easier for Todd to ignore.

      Flat out say “It’s illegal and its exploitative and gross.”

      1. Worldwalker*

        Which probably won’t help with Todd, because it’s what appeals to *him* (gross!) and therefore he thinks it’s fine.

        Convincing him that it’s likely to attract men who want dates, not sales, is more likely to work.

        I’d be reading Alison’s advice on resume writing, myself.

    4. secretstoneraccount*

      I’d encourage folks not to use rhetoric about sexual trafficking and rape to make rhetorical points in the workplace. You can absolutely tell your boss that this is illegal and inappropriate without also intimating that it’s basically in the same category as sex trafficking and rape. It’s not, and using those things as rhetorical devices really demeans the horrific trauma the victims of Ghislaine Maxwell and other sex traffickers have experienced. I cannot imagine how appallingly horrible it would be to be a survivor of sexual assault and be in my workplace, and then hear someone throw around references to Ghislaine Maxwell, arguing to someone that hiring attractive people is “rapist lite.” You can absolutely make your point to your boss without using the strawman of horrific trauma that actual real people have actually experienced.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Depending on what you know of Todd, it may be effective to change up the script a bit to say “not only is it illegal, it is also setting women up to be harassed by people who are more interested in dates than sales, and I know you’d never want to set your employees up to be harassed.”

        Use the “of course you’re a good person who would never do this,” and a lot of people will rise to your expectations of them (or at least pretend to in the moment).

      1. Sloanicota*

        Came here to say, OP: if nothing else, please leave a glassdoor review, now, so that candidates get a warning of what this guy is up to. I actually always prefer to leave my reviews while I still work at the company, and obfuscate my role a bit, because nobody seems to suspect it was me (they think people only write reviews after they leave).

    1. blood orange*


      I wouldn’t be comfortable working there after that. For all of the reasons everyone has said, but also as a woman I’d just be so uncomfortable around him. Attractive or unattractive, you know he’s making decisions based on how people look.

  6. English Rose*

    Just a thought for Todd – assuming some of his middle aged prospective customers are gay, perhaps he should throw some attractive young males into the mix too, just for good measure…

    Todd is just the worst. Or I wish he was, there are probably worse than him!

    1. Melanie Cavill*

      I won’t lie, my first thought was that depending on the location and the general demographic of the customer base (assuming this is taking place in the US), the leaning may not be just to attractive women but to attractive white women. Which, ew. Seconding Alison and yourself, Todd is terrible.

      1. Mf*

        Yup, this could very easily turn into discrimination based on race or ableism. (Somehow I don’t think a woman with a visible disability would count as hot enough for Todd.)

        1. Melanie Cavill*

          I’m not sure what’s worse: the possible discrimination based on what Todd believes his clientele considers attractive or the implications of playing to fetishism if he leans too hard the other way. For example, if he he only hires AAPI women or women with an identical twin.

          … I should probably stop letting my imagination run wild.

        2. OP*

          Maybe I should just lean into it and be like, “Okay! Help me understand what the criteria is. Hair color/length? Height and weight? Eye color? Bra size? Should we do a facial symmetry test? Get their measurements? I just really want to make sure we get the right candidates!”

      2. KoiFeeder*

        Studies show that if you take a random subset of people and show them stock photos of models, if you caption the models’ photos with anything implying disability (even if it’s as anodyne as wearing contacts or being prone to migraines), they will be rated as less attractive.

    2. Student*

      An aside to the main issue, but I always hate to see markets that are “primarily middle-aged men” treated as if they are 100% middle-aged men, even if they are merely 51% middle-aged men (or just the plurality, and they’re sitting at ~30% but the biggest single market segment). Women buy things, too; I hope that the market is closer to 49% women than 0% women, and I hope that Todd is losing every single prospective woman client to his competitors.

    3. OP*

      He has briefly alluded to “it could be young men too!” but I think that was just to deflect from what was perhaps a dawning realization that he’s crossing a line.

      1. Anonny*

        You could also point out that like, even if it worked, and it doesn’t, it means that ToddCo Chocolate Teapots would be the Chocolate Teapot of choice for the slimiest guy at Hooters. Like, is that the image he wants for his products?

      2. Luna*

        “What about potential clients that prefer the older, mature type of person? Like the Silver Fox fetishists?”

  7. Lilo*

    Todd is the worst.

    just pointing out the kind of sexists who’d be lured in by “young hot” reps also would be the kind of people who wouldn’t take them seriously and wouldn’t listen to the actual pitch. But you’ve seen this play out. That’s not the kind of people you want to be attracting at all. Todd is also implying that what happened to Pam is okay and it absolutely is bit.

    So what he’s doing is 100% illegal and he’s making it hard for Pam t9 do her job.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I think the pitch is being done by someone other than the “young hot” cold callers, but that probably also explains why so many of them are no-showing — they must be finding out the meeting isn’t with Pam. All around, these people are gross.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Yup. This is a variation on the calls I used to take from guys who wanted to pitch something to my boss, and where willing to lie to get past me. The thing is, I would tell my boss what the call was about before transferring it, so he knew this guy had lied to me and certainly wasn’t going to do business with him. The fallacy was that the sole goal speaking to me was to get past me and it didn’t matter what they did to accomplish this. Todd is making a similar fallacy, that dangling Hot Pam to set up the pitch meeting will lead to a sale.

        Also, why does Pam need to be hot? Even within the logic of the situation, she merely needs to sound hot. I rather suspect that Todd likes having Hot Pam around for his personal viewing enjoyment.

        And yes, Todd is gross. And a lousy businessman.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Right! The stereotypical phone-s*x operator with a low, husky voice – who is actually an average or below-average looking person in sweatpants filing her nails.

        2. Hannah Lee*

          Also, those callers are working under the often mistaken impression that the person answering the phone is not a or even the decision maker about whatever they are looking to peddle.

          Many small companies don’t have any employee with the sole job function of “answer the phone”. So whoever you DO get, is likely to have a vote in whether or not your products or services are ever considered.

          And even if the person isn’t a “decision maker” about that particular product, they ARE likely in a position to decide “we aren’t going to work with lying glassbowls”

        3. Observer*

          Also, why does Pam need to be hot? Even within the logic of the situation, she merely needs to sound hot. I rather suspect that Todd likes having Hot Pam around for his personal viewing enjoyment.

          Exactly! Which is why I said that it’s highly likely that it’s not just the phone callers who are going to be a problem.

      2. OP*

        Yes, you and Lilo are spot on. That is exactly what is happening: prospects don’t show when they realize the meeting is with a male sales rep, and if they do show they’re not interested in the pitch.

        I have told Todd this but he’s not hearing it.

        1. ferrina*

          It’s really gross that Todd is refusing to consider the sales data. So…his fantasy of a sales team of hot young women is more important than running an actual business?!?!

  8. Red Sky*

    If a company is purposely sending out attractive women to ‘lure in’ (gag) potential clients with the knowledge that they’re likely going to be (or have been) sexually harassed, couldn’t this be grounds for a sexual harassment lawsuit?

  9. Kowalski! Options!*

    Apologies to all the IRL Todds that are out there, but I vote for adding Todd to the pantheon of notable AAM archetypes, along with Cersei, Wakeen and Jane.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          At the risk of showing my age…

          “Dear Penthouse Forum. I never thought this would happen to me…”

          1. Flash Packet*

            I am old enough to know what that is. I remember doing my best to explain to my [older] brother that the letters weren’t real. But, by golly, he was certain that one day *he’d* be writing in.

            Several decades later and I recently did my best to explain to my ex that the person he has been corresponding with in an online dating forum is not a 40-something, upper-middle-class, successful Ukranian business woman. But, by golly, he’s certain that he’s met his future wife.

            1. UKDancer*

              I met a chap on a flight to Kyiv a few years ago who was convinced he was about to meet the stunning woman he’d been corresponding with so they could be together. He was a really sweet naive idealistic chap from somewhere in the US with a ranch (can’t remember where). It was his first overseas trip.

              I really hope for his sake he was right and she was all he dreamt she was. But I’m not naive or idealistic and had a strong feeling it was a racket.

            2. Le Sigh*

              I would ask if your ex was the subject of a Lifetime movie I once watched, but in that case, the guy thought he was talking to an 18-year-old woman and it of course ended extremely dramatically.

          2. ferrina*

            Yeeeeew. Now I’m getting flashbacks to the LW who worked alongside young women and wrote in claiming to be worries about “what people would think about me (a middle aged man) surrounded by these young women?”

  10. guest*

    In my industry, sales reps are almost universally smoking hot. Definitely not all women, but all hot. It’s an unspoken job requirement and everybody knows it.

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      Then your industry is kind of crap, and definitely low-key illegally discriminating during hiring practices.

  11. Dust Bunny*

    Side note: Pam’s youth and attractiveness may also be one of the reasons her metrics are down, if she’s not playing along the way prospective clients expect.

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        Todd is as gross as a tuna fish sandwich left in the sun for a week. Using employees more or less as bait is A Very Bad Thing, and if Pam ever gets wind of why she’s been hired, she has some good grounds for a lawsuit.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          The other bit about the Todds of the world …

          … He may use all the “it’s a strategy to increase sales” gross talking points he wants, it’s a pretty safe bet one of his main reasons for this is HE wants to work around those women and have access to them. Which is why he’s not really interested in facts about whether his strategy is a logic one based on sales results.

          1. GreyjoyGardens*

            That’s also extremely gross. Sorry Todd, your workplace is NOT your harem. You are not Henry VIII. I don’t care what you do off the clock, but your employees – yes, even young, pretty women – are professionals, not Todd groupies, and should be treated like professionals here to do their work. And judged on whether or not they can do that work.

    1. Just Alma Now*

      Ugh, all my sympathy to OP and to Pam for having to put up with Todd’s absolutely inexcusable behavior.

      I know this is a long shot, but is there any chance there might be a board of directors or other supervisory body above Todd who would be receptive to the fact their CEO is engaging in discriminatory and illegal hiring practices?

      1. Khatul Madame*

        The board of directors should look at the sales numbers and consider whether additional revenue that Todd promises will offset legal fees and settlements paid to the human bait he wants to hire.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Right! I’m really struggling to see how being attractive is a big advantage in most jobs, particularly if they’re targeting younger less experienced women. Being traditionally good looking seems like a doubled edged sword at best if you’re trying to deal with middle aged clients who are used to getting what they want. Sure, it might get you in the door or maybe get you more time to make your pitch, but these guys don’t listen to women or respect them, and even if one makes a purchase you’ve now got an issue trying to deal with them when they’re not, ya know, actually interested in your business??

    3. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

      Or you know, its just hard to be good at your job when a performance expectation is that you be totally cool with sexual harassment from all sides.

    4. OP*

      Very possibly. Another commenter theorized that Pam’s prospects may not be showing up once they realize the meeting isn’t with her, which the data supports – her show rate is lower than her male colleagues.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        I admit, I am confused! Why does it matter if the cold caller is an attractive young woman if it is a phone conversation? I would think it would make a bigger difference in the meeting, though still not a particularly worthwhile one! If anything, it seems what is most important on the calls would be the sound of the person’s voice (and honestly, deep male voices are the ones most likely to work for the purpose in question, though that is also rooted in sexism).

        Any way you look at it though, Todd is gross and not too bright!

        1. OP*

          You’re confused because it’s completely illogical! These are cold callers, no one can see them! It’s a completely flawed idea from every single angle!

          … I need to go scream into a pillow.

        2. Worldwalker*

          I can sound like a sensual, sexy woman on the phone if I want to. (or on the CB, which is another story entirely) In reality, I’m lame, overweight, wear thick glasses, and my idea of dressing up is putting on a less snarky T-shirt. Todd just wants to have Pam around the office — and he’s gross. He’s such a creeper, you expect him to come up behind you and explode.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      Guys like Todd buy into the myth that conventionally attractive young women get the red carpet treatment everywhere, a hush falls whenever they speak and their power over men verges on mind control. In truth, they just get harassed a lot, spoken over, misinterpreted and they never get to set the agenda. That’s if they’re lucky. The “use the power of your influence, instead of actual power” idea is a scam so women feel lucky “for the attention” and don’t complain about being prey.

      1. OP*

        This is an extremely insightful comment and I wish I could upvote it!

        I suspect this is 100% what his perspective is.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Best of luck with this guy; very disappointing when your leader turns out to be a stereotypical 14 year old (sorry real 14 year olds!) who thinks they can create a hot girl with magical powers (does he wear a bra on his head?). At least we know he’s not a genius.

  12. She of Many Hats*

    Petty answer: Hire his pretty young daughter or wife…..

    Yeah, really push the illegal thing emphasizing the costs to the company both in money and reputation (his wallet & ego) from prospects getting wined & dined that only want dates, not contracts or when the lawsuits are filed.

    1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Oooooh, that is petty. Not a good idea in real life, but in my head, I can see a pretty funny sitcom sketch.

  13. Generic Name*

    I have news for Todd: young women who are dedicated and smart DO NOT want to use their attractiveness as a professional advantage. They want to use their intelligence and abilities to excel at their jobs.

    I’d ask Todd if when he was young and fresh out of school how he would have felt about getting jobs because the hiring manager he would have been excited to learn that he got hired for a job because his new boss thought he was hot.

    1. Myrin*

      I’m willing to bet Todd would answer that question with some variation of either “*shrug* I wouldn’t have minded” or even “Hell yeah, I would’ve loved that!”.

      1. Elbe*

        Exactly. People who are not used to being objectified have a very different idea of what it feels like to be objectified.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        Guys like that also tend to claim they would “love” to get sexual overtures directed at them all the time. Because, in their heads, all the overtures are from people that are attractive to them, and perfectly timed. I guess there’s a certain logic in it because they also think that *they* are attractive to the victims of their overtures. People not being attracted to each other, or having other shit to get done, do not exist in their scenarios. It’s all opening scene of a porno, all the time.

    2. Generic Name*

      Woah, mangled the second paragraph. It should read: I’d ask Todd if when he was young and fresh out of school if he would have been excited to learn that he got hired for a job because his new boss thought he was hot.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        because one red flag often hides more:
        q: (as written by Generic Name)
        toss: oh, buy my boss was a guy.
        reply: yes and ?

        1. Sloanicota*

          Yeah, it’s weird how rarely the straight white Todds of the world seem to make this mental leap. They’re picturing a hot lady cougar boss.

        2. Generic Name*

          Part of why my second paragraph got messed up was because I initially went the same place you did but then deleted it. Have Todd imagine being ogled by another man, because (misogynistic) guys like Todd are often also homophobic.

      2. LawBee*

        He thinks being hot is a professional advantage so he’s probably be thrilled.

        He also probably thinks he IS hot.

      3. Chirpy*

        Unfortunately, it’s my experience that the kind of men who think that women should use their attractiveness absolutely think that if they were hired for their own hotness it would be a good thing.

        (I have actually been told by a guy if he had my boobs, he’d show them off. Dude, guys like you are exactly why I don’t.)

    3. Ellis Bell*

      Sexist men typically don’t mind being found attractive because a) they think the “and intelligent” is auto added because… they’re male, b) they genuinely think life is easier for the people they creep on and c) men are allowed to be attractive without anyone asking “how do you think they got this job”.

  14. Chauncy Gardener*

    OK. Todd is disgusting.
    But this line is one of the many reasons I come here: “….icing on Todd’s sexist cake of misogyny”

  15. Hiring Mgr*

    I haven’t heard anyone as honest as Todd in this realm since one of my former bosses suggested we hire some “booth babes” for a trade show (this was wayyyyy after that went out of fashion)

    1. UKDancer*

      Yuck there used to be one trade fair I refused to attend because they used “booth babes” and the idea made me go yuck so I wouldn’t ever go. Fortunately I think my industry has abandoned that approach now for which I’m very grateful.

      1. Worldwalker*

        I had an interesting chat with a “booth babe” at a trade show once. She knew more about the product than the actual company reps, who were some kind of marketroids the home office sent out who hadn’t even read their product literature. (she studied up on whatever products the company she was working for at a show sold) She was a student at a local university, some science major, booth-babeing on weekends. She said it was fun — she got to learn about all different products, many of them cutting edge, and get paid for it. There are worse ways to earn your beer money.

        1. UKDancer*

          Interesting. My issue is with the companies that think using booth babes to sell their product is acceptable when it’s such a non inclusive marketing tactic that I don’t want to support. It makes it obvious to me that the company doesn’t view me as a target market.

          I don’t have a problem with women who do it, We all have bills to pay. I just refuse to support companies with that approach by giving them my business.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          I mean, there’s really no reason a “babe” couldn’t also be smart and a good saleswoman. Making it obvious she was chosen for her looks (because she’s one of an army of clone-looking women or she has to wear a sexualising uniform) is a good way to ensure a lot of people won’t listen to her or take her seriously though… Such a waste of talent.

  16. Bryce with a Y*

    The ickiness and illegality of this aside, Todd is hurting himself and the company by focusing on characteristics of candidates that have no bearing on their ability to do the job, and in fact, he seems to be focusing on those characteristics at the expense of their ability to do the job.

    So he’s setting himself up to have a lot of staffers who don’t have the ability to do the job, and who will ultimately not help Todd and the company meet their goals.

    1. GreyjoyGardens*

      Exactly. Looks and sales ability are not connected in any way. A good boss will hire for sales ability, and, if Middle Aged Guy doesn’t give your salesperson the time of day because they are not young, thin and hot…he isn’t interested in your product.

      I’m thinking this won’t exactly give Todd a great name in the industry. He’ll be known as the Creep Who Hires Young Pretty Women As Bait But His Product Is No Great Shakes. Who wants that reputation? This ain’t the Playboy Mansion.

    2. Clobberin' Time*

      That’s true if you believe that Todd’s goal is to increase sales. Todd’s goal is obviously not that, since his theory doesn’t work as proven by Pam. Todd’s actual goal is to have a lot of ‘hot’ young women working for him.

    3. Worldwalker*

      Plus a lot of staffers who *do* have the ability to do the job, but are disgusted by Todd’s behavior, will quit.

      He’s actually created a filter for incompetence.

  17. haunted pencil*

    I vote for you telling Todd it’s illegal and gross, then quitting, and then posting a candid Glassdoor review.

      1. ferrina*

        Solid plan. And of course get all the documentation you can along the way (I suspect you’re already doing this).

      2. Clobberin' Time*

        Alternative, alternative plan: Talk to the employment lawyer now. You already know your boss is trying to do creepy, illegal stuff, and you are anticipating that when you call that out, you will get pushed out. A lawyer can advise you on how to manage this process to your best advantage.

      3. Observer*

        I’m with @Clobberin’ Time

        Talk to an employment lawyer, and possibly the EEOC (or your State analogue.)

        And document everything you can. If you can get emails with this stuff, that would be pure gold.

        But also, start looking your head off.

      4. Luna*

        That’s good, too. And make sure to let the whole internet know about this Todd’s attitude, so to warn other people.

  18. CheesePlease*

    I’m reading “The Great Stewardess Rebellion” all about airline fight attendant unions. They fought for years to get discrimination based on sex to be considered illegal in the workplace. The airline tried to argue that a young (under 32), unmarried, attractive (read: thin and white) woman was an essential part of the role due to the nature of serving clients. It’s a wild story. It’s disgusting this is happening in your office. Please consider reading this book if you want motivation to fight gross Todd !

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Weirdly, I was just emailing with that author about something totally unrelated. She’s in a fascinating line of work now and I might do an “interesting jobs” interview with her for the site.

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      There was recently the case of a flight attendant who shared on TikTok that Emirates rejected her after the interview for not being “thin and good looking enough”. She got an apology out of them and later revealed that she was hired by a local airline some months after the incident.

  19. GreyjoyGardens*

    This is all kinds of illegal, immoral, and unethical, not to mention gross and sexist. No, attractive young people are not to be used as bait for sales prospects. Nope nope nope. If you can’t generate sales through conventional means – hiring good, skilled salespeople and having a good product – then there is something wrong with either the product or your sales, and I don’t mean “your sales people are not young and hot enough.”

    Just speaking for me, I’d be insulted if someone used a young, good looking employee as a sales tactic to make me look at their product. Not just on behalf of the sales person, but… “do you really think I’m that stupid?” Give middle-aged men a little credit, Todd, and assume they don’t all think with Little Todd like you.

    Bleccchh. OP, find a new job asap. Pam, if you’re reading this, find a new job AND a good lawyer. Todd, if you are reading this…your sales tactics are lacking. Or your product. Or your brains. Or all three.

    1. Observer*

      I’d be insulted if someone used a young, good looking employee as a sales tactic to make me look at their product. Not just on behalf of the sales person, but… “do you really think I’m that stupid?” Give middle-aged men a little credit, Todd, and assume they don’t all think with Little Todd like you.

      That’s a very good point.

    2. Worldwalker*

      I can think of only one business that would benefit from “hot” sales people — and in the US, that business is only legal in certain counties in Nevada.

  20. NICS*

    LW, there is no justice. I send you strength. I can hope that a meteorite of Truth whacks Todd and knocks the sexism out of him, but I don’t think we can hold our breath.

  21. Veryanon*

    Todd is objectively stupid, gross, and I’d love to be a plaintiff’s attorney representing the class action suit that will inevitably be filed by the qualified candidates he didn’t hire because they weren’t young/attractive/female enough for his taste.

  22. Similar Situation UK*

    In the ’90s, in the UK, I worked with an Indian woman, she said she had been employed by a medical rep firm in the UK because a lot of doctors were Indian\Asian and she was “a pretty young girl”. Apologies if I don’t remember this properly but they employed lots of “pretty young girls” who were Indian\Bangladeshi\Pakistani etc etc to sell their products to the doctors. However it massively backfired because not only was it massively sexist and massively ageist but the company had no idea of the incredibly complex political and social structures involved. They just employed anyone who was from those countries. So some poor rep would be sent to a doctor who would be of an “opposing type” (sorry I can’t think of the right term), think of a Kashmiri being sent to a Pakistani or a Waishyas being sent to a Brahmin. The number of complaints soared when the medical profession realised what had been attempted and the company went out of business rather quickly.

      1. linger*

        Sounds like combinations of incompatible backgrounds for any or all of: religion, ethnicity/culture/language groupings, regional/political groupings, and caste/social status. (Not that these are entirely independent; rather, they all intersect in complex ways.
        And not-so-amusingly, sometimes the most superficially similar groups have the deepest-seated mutual distrust.)

  23. Sharon*

    I temped at a department where the boss only hired cute, petite women. I don’t think he bothered justifying it in any way, he was hiring economists.
    I squeaked through being neither gorgeous nor petite by being very young and being a temp, I’m sure.
    Eventually, he retired under a plan where the company paid more for him to retire than they paid him to work, leaving the team full of brilliant female (gorgeous and petite) economists, and it became a blast to work there. A week after he retired I also got the last things necessary for my project and completed it after 3 months.

    1. Gnome*

      I find the petite part intriguing. was he short? was he really tall? did he talk to them like they were girls? did he date/marry a shorter person? were they a little petite (like 5’3″) or a lot (like under 5′)?

      I’m petite myself, so I find this interesting. I have never seen that before.

        1. Important Moi*

          It happens to all “types” of women – blondes, red heads, dark hair, large bottoms, small bottoms, tall girls, short hair, long hair, slim, not slim, etc.

          I guess what I’m trying to say, you don’t have to be a particular type to be objectified.

          1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

            Of course you don’t! But “Gnome” was asking about a specific instance.

      1. Queen Ruby*

        I’ve seen it and lived it! It’s like I got bonus points for being petite. And usually, it was tall men, married to petite women. 5’3″ seems to be a common preferred height for some weird reason. I should mention I’m 5’3″ and in my 20s, when this occurred, I weighed about 105-110 lbs.

      2. EmKay*

        A certain type of dude is obsessed with petite women because they believe it will be a (please excuse this disgusting expression) “a tight fit” when they are intimate.

        1. Petty Betty*

          That, and it’s easier to infantilize us. As long as we’re small, we might be able to be mistaken for *younger*, which makes the guy in question seem more desirable for one reason or another (has money, has other attributes to attract a younger partner).
          Ironically, nobody ever questions WHY an older man would want a younger person, or even the idea of a younger person.

          (And I say this as someone who was a 16 year old married to a 30 year old, who was a child SA victim, and who spent time working in the child SA field after my first divorce, so I absolutely understand ick factors)

  24. Khatul Madame*

    I am a middle-aged woman in a position where many vendors want to sell me/my organization their products or services, and I am rolling my eyes at Todd so hard.
    And no, sending a blond bro on a sales call to me is not a surefire plan.

  25. Queen Ruby*

    This is just gross. He’s treating Pam and other potential employees in much the same way I was treated at the start of my career – 20 years ago, why is this even still happening?! And it sucks. I felt like an object. Nevermind that I was well-educated, smart, and a dedicated and hard worker. Lots of the men I worked with made no secret of degrading me because of my looks. Not gonna lie , I ate up the attention because I was too naive to know better. I mean, one guy grabbed my ass, another tried to pull my shirt down when I leaned over, so he could get a view of the girls. Just gross. And at the other end of the spectrum was my boss, who was so bothered by the idea that he might be perceived as giving me special attention because of my looks that he overcompensated by treating me horribly and giving special treatment to everyone else in our department.
    Ugh! It still infuriates me! Thank god I’m not as cute now as I was back then lol

    1. Luna*

      Rip his pants down. If he wants to see ‘the goods’ and thinks it’s okay to just grab and take, do the same to him. Treat him as the sex object that he treats others. See if he likes being degraded like that.

  26. beanie*

    I know Todd is the CEO, but could the letter writer build some strength with others at the company to push back on this so it’s not just her alone? Like an HR or legal department who should 100% be alerted to this practice if they aren’t already aware of it? Or even if they are, letter writer can CYA by putting it in writing that she is reporting illegal behavior?

  27. Delta Delta*

    Jumping on the Todd Is Gross train, because obvs.

    But also, what does this make of young people who are early in their careers, who happen to be “attractive” (whatever that means here) and who also happen to be very good at their jobs? This creates a competence problem. Suppose Pam is very pretty and she also signs every client and recruits new business? Is this because she’s pretty or because she’s competent? And when she hits 30 is she going to be fired? I don’t imagine the truly competent folks would stick around long enough to find out, but it’s also demeaning to them to be hired only because of looks. I hope this made sense.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Oh, this type of hiring is definitely the origin/perpetuation of thinking that good looking women are bimbos. Which is patently unfair and inaccurate.

      It’s also very harmful discrimination against women who are not conventionally attractive, but who have good skills and ability.

      My industry has historically been problematic for this. I like to think that things have gotten somewhat better over the past couple of decades, but I couldn’t swear to it.

    2. She of Many Hats*

      There are studies that show that if an employer is hiring for competence, attractiveness will be a sub-conscious bias (still not great) and not the explicit reason they got past the first interview. Their attractiveness often makes their career path easier but they’ll still be judged first on their competence. If hired based explicitly on their looks, competence isn’t important and they’ll advance only so far before their looks fade or their level of competence becomes a deal-breaker and their performance is judged much harsher to eventually move them out.

    3. Barbie Bada$$*

      One of my life-heroes was a young woman I saw only a few times when I did the banking errands for a small business. She was young, tiny, doll-like adorable, and absolutely all business in a way that left no doubt about her competence– while still being pleasant enough but completely uninviting to unwanted attention. If she could do it, someone of any age or attractiveness level could also possibly learn how. (Or maybe it was uniquely her superpower?)

      1. Dinwar*

        Not unique. I’ve known several paleontologists and field biologists that were extremely attractive but who were all business, and it didn’t take long for the construction crews we were doing oversight for to get the memo. Most were very pleasant, at least until you gave them a reason not to be, at which point they reminded you that they were women trained in wilderness survival and were not afraid to stand up for themselves.

        I did have to threaten to throw a guy off site once, on a different project. We were doing environmental sampling, and one of the sample crew was a small, doll-like, attractive blond woman. She wore Small nitrile gloves, the only person I’ve ever seen that could fit them! (For reference, the smallest I routinely order is Large, and most can’t fit those.) A guy said something, she turned him down, which is fair enough–that sort of thing happens. When he kept doing it, to the point where she was uncomfortable I quite pointedly informed him that I needed her FAR more than I needed him, and if he bothered her any more he was out.

  28. irene adler*

    So if Todd hires his “bevy of beauties” and sales tank, what then?
    Fire the women because they are too attractive?

    It’s not like this hasn’t been thought of, or implemented, before (Todd, you are no Einstein). If it was a successful strategy, there’d be solid documentation out there to show it.

    Todd, just a suggestion: maybe take the most direct route to increasing sales and hire the most talented out there. Regardless of what they look like.
    And keep your harem fantasies off the clock.

  29. Bubba*

    Todd is a creep. Don’t waste your career working for a Todd. If he actually cared about things like sexual harassment, discrimination and not treating employees (female or otherwise) as objects to be used, he never would have brought this up as a strategy to begin with. You may get him to back off the idea by scaring him with the legal implications but, it’s unlikely to have an effect on his personality overall. Only you can decide OP whether you can continue to work for someone like this but, I’d see it as a huge red flag and potential liability for my own career that he is even asking you to go along with this “business strategy”.

  30. Bunniferous*

    Has Todd never considered some of his prospective clients are women?

    I would just find another job then quit.

    1. Observer*

      I doubt it. If he was actually THINKING he’d know that this is a stupid plan.

      Because it IS a stupid plan on top of it being gross, sexist and exploitative.

  31. Observer*

    OP, follow Alison’s advice.

    But PLEASE start looking for a new job. This man is a leering creep himself. He’s probably not going to hit on YOU, but it’s good bet that he WILL hit on the “hot” young women you hire.

    I don’t know whether or not he would respond the way you think he would. But you work with him, so I have to believe that even if you turn out to be wrong, you have good reason to believe it likely. Which is a long way of saying that this guy is such a creep that he thinks that using their sexuality is the way “smart” women get ahead AND that women are ok and even intentional about it. Which also means that he’s likely to think that it’s JUST FINE to give the woman if his choice the “opportunity” to “get ahead” in that way.

    And he’s the CEO – there really is no one that can make him behave. Although, if you guys have a lawyer available, you might want to run this by them. Any competent lawyer is going to blow a gasket and TRY to knock some sense into Todd’s head. Not that anyone is going to change his mind. But at least they might make him behave a bit better. MIGHT.

    Do you really want to work for someone like this? Also, this guy could easily wind up blowing up the business, in which case you would be out of a job anyway.

    I realize that you probably can’t quite with nothing lined up, but you really should start working on an exit plan.

  32. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    I have to say, as someone in the Asexual spectrum, the idea to hire someone with a sexy voice to cold call me is hilarious.

    1. Luna*

      I am heteromantic asexual, but I will say that I am also easily focused on a person’s audial aspects. So, if you have what I consider a pleasant voice, I won’t mind listening to you. There are even some singers or voice actors, where their voice can make me all goo-goo eyed. But this goes back to not everyone defines a ‘sexy voice’ as the same thing.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      It’s pretty funny to me too, and I actually am a bit susceptible to a sexy voice. As a sales tactic though it’s hysterical.

  33. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

    Is it too late to change my username to “Todd’s sexist cake of misogyny.”

    As always, Allison, you have a way with words.

  34. Gene Parmesan*

    (Not a lawyer but) to play devil’s advocate for a moment, I have read that sex/age can be considered in hiring decisions if there is a bona fide occupational qualification for the position. My understanding is that this has been challenged and found legal for positions like waitress at Hooters. Not saying it applies in this case, though.

    1. Former Young Lady*

      Sir, this isn’t a Hooters.

      If Todd believes his salespeople must be hot and female in order to perform the work, he’s not looking for salespeople; he’s looking for promotional models. If this were a BFOQ situation, he’d need to be transparent about the nature of the work and the aesthetic/demographic expectations for candidates.

      Source: when I was young enough for the Todds of this world to ogle me, my talent agency tried to get me into promotional modeling. If the expectation is “look hot and humor lecherous men,” but the job description makes no mention of it, Todd doesn’t get to claim the expectation as a BFOQ.

    2. Observer*

      The devil doesn’t need any advocates.

      If you are going to try to defend the indefensible, at least use an argument that stands a chance at passing the laugh test.

      Your claim that maybe what Todd is suggesting might be legal because of the possibility of a “Bona Fide Operating Qualification” at play does NOT meet that (very, very low) bar.

    3. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      Right – like, with actors. You can require a female actor for a female part. But this is about sales, so it’s totally not even in the same category. So … why did you think it was appropriate to bring up here?

    4. Gene Parmesan*

      I mentioned it simply because Alison’s answer makes the blanket statement that hiring decisions that factor in sex/age are illegal, and there are legal exceptions.

      1. metadata+minion*

        If you’re in one of the very few fields where this is likely to come up, you almost certainly know about it.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      I think the main difference is Hooters has a business model and set demographic which makes their set up reasonable legally and which everybody (customers and staff) are opting into openly. Todd however is implying that all customers of their non gendered business are obviously going to be men (women have cash FFS), he’s also positing that these men are purely motivated by sex and that female salespeople need to be sexy rather than good at their actual jobs. You really can’t do that. Especially when it’s a secret tactic you’re springing on the people you’re hiring after they’ve started the job. These women will have no idea that they’ve been hired as de facto Hooters girls until they realise every colleague is a clone and it’s open season on harassment.

  35. Dinwar*

    I recently read that Hooters is changing their business model. Their food isn’t good enough to draw people in on its own, and standards of beauty are shifting away from their standard model, and frankly folks these days are looking for a good product and want more out of an experience than “The hot waitress smiled at me”. So they’re trying a few different things to make up the loss.

    Put another way: A business openly run on the premise of “Hot women attract customers”, with a history of success using that model, is finding that model to not be effective.

    So ignoring the moral issues (and we absolutely shouldn’t!!), this is a horrible plan in terms of business.

      1. Observer*

        Which is the point. Even a place that has always been about selling female “hotness” can’t make it work if the food isn’t good. What chance does a business that is NOT based on selling women’s looks have of succeeding?

    1. Luna*

      That also ignores the fact that there are people who consider the ‘standard model’ found at Hooters is really not what they would consider attractive. Some people may think that blue eyes and blond hair is attractive, while others consider that to be not attractive at all. They prefer darker hairshades with blue eyes or don’t like blue eyes, at all!

      You can’t create a ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to something as personal as definitions of attractiveness.

  36. kiki*

    Todd’s idea would be gross even if it were an actually effective business strategy, but I always wonder what sort of la la land people like Todd live in. I had a boyfriend like this once, who thought I had advantages in my career because I am an attractive young woman. I was a software engineer! Being an attractive young woman makes my experience in software hell! It takes forever for anyone to take me seriously as a technical person and I have to walk the tightrope of being friendly to my coworkers but not so friendly they think I want to date them (but being an attractive young woman also means many men are very ready to read a lot into normal friendliness).

    Maybe being an attractive young woman in tech helped me stand out from a crowd and made some people more willing to talk to me, but that doesn’t actually turn into success in the tech world. Same with Sales– yeah, maybe young, female hires get some folks into meetings who wouldn’t go otherwise, but those folks are not interested in the meeting and doing genuine business with LW’s company.

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I agree with this. Looks may get you in the door, but it’s not always an asset and it doesn’t usually close sales. I know people in pharma and the ones with the highest numbers are really, really knowledgeable about the drugs, biology, and medicine well beyond their training and the marketing materials. They earn the respect of doctors, who do care about getting real information and solving problems more than who’s cute.

  37. Got to Love Institutionalized Misogyny*

    A coworker’s spouse won a decent payment in a lawsuit. She was in pharmaceutical sales. Her company was bought by a European company. She had an excellent sales record. They took her off all her high paying accounts and put her on lower ones that were more “suitable” for a woman. The manager they had sent over from their main office flat out told her that then laughed at her and tried joking about it with the men in the office AND the woman who was already working “soft” accounts that didn’t require overnight travel at her request. I’m frequently reminded of that when I hear about these sort of situations and as some commenters did here the discussion includes pharmaceutical sales and their “special” techniques.

  38. Work From Homer Simpson*

    Ugh. The only bright spot here is that your Todd is dumb enough to say out loud that he’s illegally discriminating in hiring. The Todd from my last company was the head of HR, so he knew enough to keep his mouth shut. It was pretty obvious to everyone with eyes what was happening after he took over HR, though. Suddenly, all the older women and men in HR were having “performance issues” and they rapidly disappeared to be replaced by pretty young women. They were all very nice and seemed capable enough, but they also all could’ve been related given how similar they looked. Then he would brag about how he was bringing diversity to the company (no other departments increased hiring of women or other minorities, just HR), so it made it doubly gross to see him surround himself with pretty women for his own amusement and then brag about how good it was for the company. Everyone outside HR who saw this (and knew the guy before he became the head of HR so knew he was a creep, but now had the power to be creepy on a large scale) could see right through what he was doing. I always felt bad for the women he hired, though. They had no idea what they were walking into and thought they were being hired for their skills, not their looks. I’m sure he was a nightmare to work for. How do guys like this end up in positions of power? Ugh. Just ugh.

  39. TD*

    I’m guessing the vast majority of potential male clients hate this practice as well.

    If a company is trying to sell you on something — and the person they send to do it has clearly been sent for their visual appeal (as opposed to knowledge of the product or service) — then they’ve clearly decided that YOU’RE a leering creep. Most guys don’t appreciate being thought of that way, and don’t want to do business with a company that makes that assumption.

    At the same time, if they’re trying that hard to distract you from the business at hand, you’ll assume it’s because the deal is a scam (or, at the very least, that the terms aren’t in your best interest).

    This practice is very clearly sexist, but it’s a bad idea in any case.

  40. Chickaletta*

    Ew. And how incredibly demeaning is his argument that “(2) young women who are dedicated and smart should want to use their attractiveness as a professional advantage.” I don’t even know how to properly convey how gross that is. That someone is telling an entire group of people how they should feel because it creates an advantage to that someone. And implying that they’re not intelligent if they don’t feel that way. And that it’s a man placing that on women because of their looks is one of the most misogynistic things I’ve ever read. It makes me more upset the more I think about it.

  41. Luna*

    Todd, that sounds incredibly sexist. And discriminatory, if you refuse to give male candidates the same consideration for the job you would give to female candidates. Which, by the way, are having their attractiveness based on *your personal* sense of what counts as ‘attractive’.

    Stop it. If your company and product is so crappy that the only way to sell it is to go the line of basically prostituting your product and employees, you really should fix the company and product first. Fix the root issue, not the wilted petal.

    And that doesn’t go how in Role A, cold-calling is generally a very non-visual thing, so it doesn’t matter how attractive the person working the role may *look*, since the person on the other end of the phone has no clue what the other looks like.

    OP, tell Todd off, burn that bridge, and escape to greener pastures.

  42. Lizzo*

    What the actual eff, Todd? You gross, sexist sack of sh*t.

    OP, I applaud your ability to write a well-composed letter to AAM about this. If it were me, I would have been visibly outraged and would have had some choice (and decidedly unprofessional) words for Todd.

  43. Neddy Seagoon*

    Perhaps he’s an ass.

    Perhaps he’s under intense pressure to deliver and no one cares much about how he does it. We had an epidemic of gross – if not technically illict – behavior in one of my workplaces because the higher-ups wanted more sales and suchlike and threatened to fire anyone who didn’t raise their sales.

    (Then it really did cross the line and it fell apart.)

Comments are closed.