Tattoos should not hinder one’s employability

Blue background with a snake tattoo in the middle. In front of the snake tattoo is a doctor with tattoos around their body.
(Gunner Lee | Daily Trojan)

A phrase in cursive on the palm of your left hand. Your partner’s initials on your right ankle. Two intertwining hearts on your back. People use tattoos to express themselves and the things, people or places important to them. Yet, this art form is often discouraged for fear that it will affect someone’s chances of employment. While this may temporarily dissuade people from getting tattoos, it is not difficult to understand that this axiom does not hold true in the real world. 

Past research from Sage Journals in 2018 concluded that tattoos are associated with a lower level of employability or a more negative opinion of an employee, particularly among older consumers. However, much of this research has to do with perceived discrimination, not “actual discrimination” and “abstract negative attitudes toward body art.” Other research found that a variety of factors had “zero net effect of body art on personal income.”

In the Harvard Business Review, University of Miami professor Michael French explains that, in his study surveying more than 2,000 people, he expected to find “a wage penalty or employment difficulties, because hiring managers have said in previous studies that they’d discriminate against tattooed candidates.” However, the study found no such result. 

Nowadays, tattoos have gained greater acceptance, with 44% of people in the United States sporting at least one tattoo, according to a 2019 study by the Statista Research Department. As the causation study showed, showcasing some ink will not affect chances of landing a job. Some conntries go as far as to prohibit discrimination of people for job positions if they have tatoos. According to Inhersight, in the U.K., U.S. and many other countries, it’s still legal for companies to have a ‘no tattoo’ policy.

There is no reason that one’s self-expression—excluding tattoos that display offensive language or implications—should be frowned upon. Tattoos can make someone feel more whole and confident in themselves. Humans have used their bodies for artwork for thousands of years through tattooing, as evidenced by Ötzi, a man whose body has been preserved for 5,300 years. He himself sports some body art, as do human remains from 3,000 years ago found in Russia, Chile, China and Egypt. Something with such a deeply rooted history should not be looked down upon, especially since the majority have no intention of causing harm with their tattoos. 

As UCLA Chief of Mental Health Community Care Systems,  Dr. Joseph Pierre puts it, tattoos tell stories that words can not. As a psychotherapist, Pierre encourages using tattoos as a means of learning about a person’s important life events or troubles. Parents may get a tattoo that mimics that of their late son, or a cancer survivor may choose to get a “survivor” tattoo which can help them recover emotionally. Tattoos serve various purposes for many different people, and there should be no reason for their professionalism to get affected. 

Someone who has tattoos should not be held back from doing great work. Tattoos do not keep someone from being a good leader, a cooperative team member or a resourceful employee. A person who is more sure of themselves because of their body art could be more likely to put their best foot forward in their job. Someone’s job is only a part of their identity and the same goes for tattoos, so why would their tattoos define who they could be as a worker? 

It is up to this generation to change the narrative of tattoos and employment so that future generations are not held back from letting their creativity show. At the end of the day, we all have control of our own bodies and should not be judged or chastised for doing so.