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If I asked all the women in STEM and business to raise their hands every time they were outnumbered by men in a classroom, a lot of hands would go up. Being a female young adult in college is empowering and beautiful, but it’s also a time where we consciously or unconsciously wrestle with a lot of labels that both ourselves and others have heaped onto us.

One as old as time: brains vs. beauty in women. Let’s break some myths and see what science says about their relationship to each other and their impact on our lives. 

black Woman with dreadlocks
Photo by RootedColors from nappy

Is It One or the Other? 

Society seems to be stuck on this perception that women are either the smart type or the good-looking type. And while it seems absurd to ask if a woman can be both, my answer is a resounding YES. Tyra Banks, Alicia Keys, Shakira, and literally countless other women are easily both. So the question really comes down to… 

Are brains and beauty related? 

Do increases or decreases in good looks also mean increases or decreases in intelligence? While more research definitely needs to be done on this, a study run by the American Psychological Association concludes that there is no correlation between facial looks and intelligence.

Now there are caveats to this like how glasses often make people seem smarter, but when it comes to facial expressions, Mitchem and the rest of his colleagues from this study say there is no such correlation. 


Which Matters More When It Comes to Income? 

Short answer: brains matter more when it comes to your income. But it’s not that simple. 

According to a study conducted on 191 men and women ages 25 to 75, “physical attractiveness had a significant impact on how much people got paid, how educated they were, and how they evaluated themselves… But the effects of a person’s intelligence on income were stronger than those of a person’s attractiveness.” So as we can see here, beauty (i.e. good looks) does play a part. We’d be kidding ourselves if we tried denying that, but brains still play a bigger role. 

The Bold Type Women
The Bold Type / Giphy

So what should women do about this? Be both all the more! There’s conflicting research, countless stereotypes, and our own insecurities about these topics that we’ll battle for the long haul, but the goal is clear: remove that myth. We need to stop buying into this myth that women are predominantly one or the other, and that starts with embracing both.   

Cynthia Lim

CU Boulder '23

Cynthia Lim is a sophomore at CU Boulder majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Data Science. In her free time she likes writing, playing the piano, and rock climbing.
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