She’s also a highly respected human rights lawyer. She’s advocated on behalf of leaders who’ve lost power (including former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed) as well as those who’ve suffered in anonymity (such as the plight of the 6,700 Yazidi women held captive by the Islamic State and jailed journalists in places like Myanmar and Egypt).

And her latest endeavor, which was the reason for the gathering at Columbia Law, sounds damn impressive, too. It’s an initiative called TrialWatch that trains lawyers, journalists and laymen to monitor trials around the world. Microsoft, whose president Brad Smith also shared the stage (but who remembers him or the other luminaries?), is partnering with the Clooney Foundation and has developed an app for the monitors to assess the fairness of trials.

Amal’s work is serious and worthy, so why am I now talking about her looks? Well, it’s hard to ignore. And if we’re being honest, I think a lot of women find her intimidating. Not only does she look perfect, she’s married to a rich and famous husband who supports her career. She’s a working mom to boot.

Which brings us to the challenges of being an attractive woman. Reporting on research from Washington State University and the University of Colorado Boulder, the Times article says that attractive women in business face loads of resentment and prejudice.

Contrary to popular belief that pretty women at work are regarded as bimbos, the study finds that they are perceived as “seductive yet manipulative.” In fact, both men and women considered them “less trustworthy, less truthful and more worthy of being fired than other women.” The article says they arouse “primal feelings of sexual insecurity, jealousy and fear.”

Sexual insecurity, jealousy and fear—well, I guess that sums it up about how some of us earthly critters feel in the presence of a goddess at the office. (This doesn’t happen often in Big Law, though Amal was an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell once upon a time.)

“Of all the concerns that the women’s movement have brought to focus, this is the one that we’ve made the least progress,” says Stanford Law professor Deborah Rhode, the author of “Beauty Bias,” a book about how physical appearance affects women’s lives. She says women’s focus on looks “takes a toll in time and self-esteem,” and that social media has made the problem worse. “Women are less happy with their appearance today than they were 25 years ago.”

In the workplace, women are expected to look good, but not overly so, lest their credibility is called into question. “They are either too attractive or not enough,” says Rhode. “It underscores the double bind of beauty standard for women.”

So the lovely and the not-so-lovely are both judged harshly. Wait a minute. I’m not sure I buy that. All things being equal, isn’t it still better to be unbearably beautiful than homely?

Of course, says Rhode. “Those who look good still have advantage than those who don’t. In getting hired and promoted, it helps if you’re attractive.” However, there’s a limit to that advantage: At very high level jobs, very attractive women can suffer, says Rhode. But, she adds, they can downplay their sex appeal, whereas “unattractive people have fewer options.”

Her advice: “We should value people for who they are and what they do. We should celebrate Amal and husband have done for human rights.” As for comparing ourselves against Amal, “it’s an impossible standard,” says Rhode. “That’s not realistic, but caring about others is realistic for everyone.”

Hear that? Let it go. We should just focus on Amal’s good deeds and forget about the rest of the package.

We’ll work on that.

 

vchen@alm.com

Twitter: @lawcareerist.