The Edges of Lean — Ep 58 Continuous Improvement and Lookism with Kathryn McIver


What does a PhD candidate look like? What does a “Lean Six Sigma expert” look like? How about a CEO? My guest Kathryn McIver wants you to know why how we look impacts our opportunities. So, she changed the topic of her PhD dissertation to research lookism. She’s here to share her research.

Dr. Kathryn McIver 

Dr. Kathryn McIver is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and earned her doctorate from the University of Maryland where she studied the impacts of appearance on women’s careers. Prior to shifting into operations management, McIver focused on Lean Six Sigma program inception and development where she strongly emphasized the employee’s role in program sustainability and success. When she isn’t designing Lean programs, McIver teaches at the University of Colorado Denver Business school and spoils both of her Bassett Hounds rotten. 



  • Dr. Mclver’s career background
  • How her looks/pink hair impacted her profession 
  • “Lookism” explained
  • How making assumptions about other people’s looks may affect them negatively 
  • What does it mean to look “professional?”
  • Why we believe that people in certain professions need to look a particular way, and how this is intersectional with sexism, racism and other biases. 
  • What can leaders do to reduce lookism inside their organization?



  • Lookism is the prejudicial or discriminatory treatment of people based on their physical appearance. It can manifest as discrimination in hiring, promotion, salary, and other areas of employment.
  • Combating lookism can be difficult, but raising awareness about the issue is a good place to start. Increasing understanding and acceptance of the different types of beauty can help to reduce the harmful effects of lookism..


Memorable Quotes From Dr. Kathryn McIver 


“ It is okay to have a bad day, it’s okay to have a bad week or a bad month or even a bad year that we don’t always have to always be on. And that doesn’t erode who we are, what our contributions are. And I certainly think coming out of the pandemic, everybody will resonate with this idea that it’s okay to have a bad year.”