Category Archives: Working Women

Working Women

How Much Does Appearance Matter?

Linda A. Jackson

Perceived attractiveness was correlated with perceived competence and likability in a meta-analysis by Michigan State University’s Linda A. Jackson, John E. Hunter, and Carole N. Hodge.
Physically attractive people were seen as more intellectually competent.

Nancy Etcoff

Similarly, women who wore cosmetics were rated more highly on attractiveness, competence, likability and trustworthiness when viewed for as little as 250 milliseconds, found Harvard’s Nancy L. Etcoff, Lauren E. Haley, and David M. House, with Shannon Stock of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Proctor & Gamble’s Sarah A. Vickery.

Models without makeup, with natural, professional, “glamorous” makeup

However, when participants looked at the faces for a longer time, ratings for competence and attractiveness remained the same, but ratings for likability and trustworthiness changed based on specific makeup looks.

Trustworthiness was differentiated from attractiveness, which was seen as linked to competence, but not consistently with social warmth.

Etcoff’s team concluded that cosmetics could influence automatic judgments because attractiveness “rivets attention, and impels actions that help ensure the survival of our genes.”

Most people recognize the bias in assuming that attractive people are competent and that unattractive people are not, yet impression management remains crucial in the workplace and in the political arena.

-*Where have you seen appearance exert an influence in workplace credibility, decision-making and role advancement?

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©Kathryn Welds

 

Women Who Express Anger Seen as Less Influential

Jessica Salerno

Jessica Salerno

Men who expressed anger were more likely to influence their peers, found Arizona State University’s Jessica Salerno and Liana Peter-Hagene of University of Illinois, in their study of computer-mediated mock jury proceedings.
In contrast, women who expressed anger were seen as less influential, reinforcing trends reported in a previous blog post.

Liana Peter-Hagene

Liana Peter-Hagene

More than 200 U.S. jury-eligible volunteers reviewed opening arguments and closing statements, eyewitness testimonies, crime scene photographs, and an image of the alleged weapon in a homicide.

Participants made individual verdict choices, then exchanged instant messages by computer, with “peers” who were said to be deliberating their verdict decisions.

In fact, “peer” messages were scripted, with four of the fictional jurors agreeing with the participant’s verdict, and one disagreeing.
The dissenting participant had a male user name or a female user name or a gender-neutral name.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

Half of the dissenting messages contained no emotion, anger, or fear, and these communications had no influence on participants’ opinions.

However, participants’ confidence in their verdict decision significantly dropped when a single “male dissenter” sent angry messages, characterized by “shouting” in all capital letters.
Confidence in the verdict decision dropped even when the vote was shared by the majority of other “jurors.”
This finding suggests the persuasive impact of a single male dissenter’s angry communication.

In contrast, volunteers became more confident in their initial verdict decisions when their vote was echoed by the majority of other participants.

This confidence was was maintained when a single female dissenter responded with angry emotional message, suggesting that “female” anger was less influential.
“Women’s” dissent seemed to reinforce conviction in the shared decision.

Eric Luis Uhlmann

Eric Luis Uhlmann

Male and female evaluators conferred lower status on angry female professionals compared with angry male professionals in research by Yale University’s Victoria Brescoll and Eric Luis Uhlmann, now of INSEAD.
Evaluators assigned lower status to female CEOs and to female trainees when they expressed anger.

Kristi Lewis Tyran

Kristi Lewis Tyran

Men who expressed anger in a professional context were conferred higher status than men who expressed sadness.
Likewise, women who expressed anger and sadness were rated less effective than women who shared no emotion, according to Kristi Lewis Tyran of Western Washington University.

Evaluators judged men’s angry reactions more generously, attributing these emotional expressions to understandable external circumstances, such as having external pressure and demands.

These differing judgments of emotional expression suggest that women’s anger is more harshly evaluated because anger expressions deviate from women’s expected societal, gender, and cultural norms.

-*What impacts and consequences have you observed for women and men who express anger at work?

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©Kathryn Welds

Plastic Surgery Changes Perceived Personality Traits

Michael J. Reilly

Michael J. Reilly

People often infer others’ personality attributes through visual observation, called facial profiling by Georgetown University Hospital’s Michael J. Reilly, Jaclyn A. Tomsic and Steven P. Davison, collaborating with Stephen J. Fernandez of MedStar Health Research Institute.
This cognitive shortcut can lead to biased impressions and limited opportunities for those unfavorably judged.

Jaclyn A. Tomsic

Jaclyn A. Tomsic

These researchers asked more than 24 raters to evaluate photographs of 30 different women who were “well-matched neutral facial expressions.

Each rater evaluated 10 images, including five photographs before the person had plastic surgery procedures and five images following surgical procedures which included:

  • Chin implant,
  • Eyebrow-lift,
  • Lower blepharoplasty (lower eye lift),
  • Upper blepharoplasty (upper eye lift),
  • Neck-lift,
  • Rhytidectomy (face-lift).

Steven Davison

The raters were unaware that some  had plastic surgery procedures, and they evaluated each photograph on a 7-point scale for perceived:

  • Aggressiveness,
  • Extroversion,
  • Likability,
  • Risk-seeking,
  • Social skills,
  • Trustworthiness,
  • Attractiveness.

Michael Reilly-Preoperative-Postoperative photos

These procedures resulted in cosmetic improvements to eyes and mouth, two regions crucial to expressing and interpreting emotions.

Michael Reilly - Pre-Post 2Raters assigned higher scores for likability, social skills, attractiveness, and femininity to the images following plastic surgery compared with pre-surgery image ratings.

The research team concluded:
“The eyes are highly diagnostic for attractiveness as well as for trustworthiness which may explain why…patients undergoing lower (eyelid surgery) were found to be significantly more attractive and feminine, and had a trend toward improved trustworthiness...

“The corner of the mouth is the diagnostic region for both happy and surprised expressions and plays an important role in the perception of personality traits, such as extroversion.

“A subtle upturn of the mouth and fullness in the cheeks can make a person look more intelligent and socially skilled.

“This appearance may explain why patients undergoing a facelift procedure … are found to be significantly more likable and socially skilled postoperatively.”

Separately, volunteers attributed personality traits to neutral faces when they perceived a similarity to standard emotional expressions, reported Princeton’s Christopher P. Said and Alexander Todorov with Nicu Sebe of University of Trento.

Christopher P. Said

Christopher P. Said

Neutral faces rated as positive resembled typical facial expressions of happiness, whereas faces seen as negative resembled facial displays of disgust and fear.
Faces viewed as threatening resembled facial expressions of anger.
These trait inferences resulted from overgeneralization in emotion recognition systems, and might be inaccurate.

Nicu Sebe

Nicu Sebe

Faces that resemble typical emotional expressions can lead to misattributed personality traits and biased impressions.
These judgments can change for the better when a person’s appearance changes after plastic surgery.

-*To what extent do people’s personality traits seems different following plastic surgery?

-*How often are people treated differently following plastic surgery?

*What are ways to avoid confusing emotional expressions with personality traits?

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©Kathryn Welds

Reputation Affects Women’s Promotion, Earnings

Lily Fang

Lily Fang

Sterling Huang

Men gain greater reputation and job performance benefits from professional connections than women with equivalent or better education and job skills, according to INSEAD’s Lily Fang and Sterling Huang of Singapore Management University

Lauren Cohen

Lauren Cohen

Fang and Huang examined U.S. equity analysts’ alumni connections with senior officers and board members of up to eight companies, using an approach pioneered by Harvard’s Lauren Cohen, and Christopher Malloy with Andrea Frazzini, of AQR Capital Management.

Christopher Malloy

They considered analysts’:

  • Year-end earnings per share (EPS) forecasts,
  • Buy – sell stock recommendations from 1993 to 2009,
  • Price impact of their recommendations,
  • Selection to “All America Research Team” (AA) by Institutional Investor magazine during the same period.
    This recognition is based on the institutional investors’ subjective evaluation of each analyst’s industry knowledge, communication, responsiveness, written reports, and related skills.
Andrea Frazzini

Andrea Frazzini

Forecast accuracy is one of the least important selection criteria,.
As a result, skillful analysts may be overlooked as an “All America” member if they are not visible and well-regarded by decision-makers.

Connections directly contributed to male analysts’ likelihood of being named to the  “All America Research Team” (AA).
This relationship did not hold for female analysts, suggesting that investors subjectively value male analysts’ connections but not those of female analysts.
This difference leads to significant financial consequences for male and female analysts because those awarded the AA title earn around three times more than those without.

About 25% of women and men analysts shared a school tie with a senior officer or board member in the firms they cover, and these connections significantly improved men’s forecast accuracy more than women’s.
These connections also improved the impact of male analysts’ stock recommendations, measured by market reaction to their buy and sell calls.

Female analysts with a connection to a female executive at firms they covered had a highly significant improvement in accuracy ranking, yet male analysts with a male connection experienced almost twice as much accuracy improvement.

Herminia Ibarra

Herminia Ibarra

This significantly different impact of similar connections early in women’s and men’s careers could explain gender gaps that exist throughout long-term career trajectories.
This finding supports Herminia Ibarra’s similar results for men and women in an advertising firm, where men capitalized on network ties to improve their employment positions.

Women who are capable of executive roles at these Wall Street firms may remain in analytical roles because promotion to General Manager roles depends on subjective evaluations by current decision makers, who are usually men.

Fang and Huang concluded that despite mandated protections against gender discrimination in the U.S, men and women may be evaluated using different subjective criteria, even with the benefit of social connections.
This leads to differential career advancement for women and men.

Ronald Burt

Ronald Burt

These career-related social connections, or social capital, are affected by legitimacy, reputation, and network structures, argued University of Chicago’s Ronald Burt.
He noted that “holes” in a social network are entrepreneurial opportunities to add value, and Burt argued that women should have equal opportunities to fill network holes and increase their possibility of advancement.

However, he noted that “entrepreneurial networks linked to early promotion for senior men do not work for women” because women are not accepted as legitimate members of the population of highly promotable candidates.

Burt opined that women and minorities who succeed despite this disadvantage gain access to social capital by leveraging the network of a legitimate strategic partners.
This economic analysis may explain the powerful advantage of sponsors for women and minorities in the workplace.

-How do you identify and fill “structural holes in social capital networks”?

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©Kathryn Welds

Activate Women’s, Minorities’ Stereotype Threat Reactance to Enhance Performance

Claude Steele

Claude Steele

Stereotype threat occurs when expectations of a group’s typical behavior are activated among group members, resulting in reduced scores on standardized test performance for women and African Americans.

Joshua Aronson

When Stanford’s Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson now of NYU, helped women and African Americans participants resist these stereotypes, participants’ performance improved more than when the researchers activated a positive shared identity.

Anthony Greenwald

Stereotypes can be invoked by “implicit primes” even when people explicitly disavowed stereotypes, found University of Washington’s Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji, then at Yale.
However, when volunteers focused on tasks, including judgment challenges about members of a stereotyped group, participants were less likely to render discriminatory decisions.

Laura Kray

Laura Kray

Both women and men showed resisted stereotypic behavior in negotiations when stereotypes were elicited with explicit primes, reported University of California, Berkeley’s Laura Kray, Leigh Thompson of Northwestern and Columbia’s Adam Galinsky.
In this case,  activating a shared identity helped participants resist gender stereotypic expectations in negotiation performance.

Gordon Moskowitz

Gordon Moskowitz

People can separate themselves from prevailing stereotypes with contrast primes, by providing examples that contradict a stereotype, found Lehigh University’s Gordon B. Moskowitz and Ian W. Skurnik of University of Utah.

Ryan P. Brown

Ryan P. Brown

Men from majority groups also can experience stereotype threat, found University of Oklahoma’s Ryan P. Brown and Robert A. Josephs of University of Texas. 
Male participants performed less effectively after a positive male stereotype was activated as a comparison criterion.
Men’s performance was also undermined by “pressure to live up to the standard.”

Robert A Josephs

Robert A Josephs

People can manage stereotype threat by explicitly mentioning the stereotype to activate resistance.
In addition, people can focus on a shared identity that transcends the stigmatized group identity, and identifying examples that contradict the stereotype.

  • How do you manage stereotype threat for yourself and others?
  • How effective have you found activating stereotype reactance?

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©Kathryn Welds

Women’s Self-Advocacy: Self-Promotion and Violating the “Female Modesty” Norm

Corinne Moss-Racusin

Corinne Moss-Racusin

Some women experience anxiety when required to showcase their accomplishments and skills.
At the same time, they also understand that self-promotion, personal marketing, and “selling yourself” can be required to be achieve recognition and rewards at work.

Gender norms about “modesty” can contribute to women’s discomfort in highlighting their accomplishments.
These implicit rules advocate that women:

  • hold a moderate opinion of their skills,
  • appear humble and avoid pretentiousness,
  • disclaim personal responsibility for success,
  • accept personal responsibility for failure.
Laurie Rudman

Laurie Rudman

In contrast, many American men proactively showcase their skills, and observers see self-promoting men as “competent,” “capable,” and “confident.”
And men who do not advertise their successes generally experience “backlash” like women who self-promote, according to Skidmore’s Corinne Moss-Racusin, Julie Phelan of Langer Research Associates, and Rutgers’ Laurie Rudman.
This suggests that anyone who behaves contrary to expected gender stereotypes may be less favorably evaluated and advance more slowly in careers.

Marie‐Hélène Budworth

Women from cultures that value cooperation, collaboration, and collective accomplishment face limited career advancement if they conform to these norms in self-promoting work cultures, found York University‘s MarieHélène Budworth and Sara L. Mann of University of Guelph.

Deborah A. Small

Deborah A. Small

Likewise, women who adhere to implicit “female modesty” expectations are less likely to ask for promotions and salary increases.
This reluctance contributed to women’s long-term pay disparity according to University of Pennsylvania’s Deborah A. Small, Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University, University of Maryland’s Michele Gelfand and Hilary Gettman.

Peter Glick

Peter Glick

However, if women violate “modesty norms,” they can experience discrimination in hiring, promotion, and wages, reported Rutgers’ Rudman and Peter Glick of Lawrence University and other adverse interpersonal consequences, according to Yale’s Victoria Brescoll.

Mark Zanna

Mark Zanna

People who violate norms typically experience physical arousal including discomfort, anxiety, fear, nervousness, perspiration, increased heart rate, noted University of Waterloo’s Mark Zanna and Joel Cooper of Princeton.

However, if participants attribute this physical activation to “excitement” rather than norm violation, they were more likely to:

  • Engage in self-promotion,
  • Express interest in self-promotion,
  • More effectively describe their accomplishments.
Jessi L Smith

Jessi L Smith

Despite women’s – and some men’s –  career “double bind,” people can consciously communicate more effectively about their successes, demonstrated in studies by Montana State University’s Jessi L. Smith and Meghan Huntoon.

More than 75 women wrote sample essays for a merit-based scholarship valued up to USD $5,000.
One group was composed essays about their own accomplishments whereas another group wrote about another person’s accomplishments.

Andrew Elliott

Andrew Elliott

They also completed Achievement Goal Questionnaire – Revised by University of Rochester Andrew Elliot and Kou Murayama of Tokyo Institute of Technology to evaluate “performance approach” and “performance avoidance.”

The laboratory contained a black box described as a “subliminal noise generator.”
Half the volunteers were told the box produced “inaudible but potentially uncomfortable ultra-high frequency noise,” and they were later asked to evaluate “the effects of extraneous distractions on task performance.”
The remaining participants received no information about the black box.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

Women who could attribute their experience to the “noise generator” produced higher-quality, more convincing descriptions of their achievements, measured by being awarded significantly higher scholarships prizes.
These women also said they were more interested in the task, which is typically associated with greater intrinsic motivation to showcase personal accomplishments.

In contrast, women who violated the “modesty” norm without reference to the “noise generator” said they:

  • Reported less interest in describing their achievements,
  • Negatively evaluated their performance,
  • Produced lower-quality essays,
  • Were more likely to report fear of failure.

Women perceived as displaying their accomplishments in essays were negatively evaluated by judges, who awarded significantly less to people wrote about their own accomplishments rather than about someone else’s.

Leon Festinger

Leon Festinger

One “workaround” for this self-promotion double bind is to reciprocally advocate for colleagues.
This strategy highlights colleagues’ accomplishments as organizational policies evolve to encourage everyone’s self-promotion.
An example is Google’s self-nomination process for advancement and promotion, coupled with reminder emails to submit self-nominations.

When people redefine showcasing their professional accomplishments as “part of the job,” they tend to perform more effectively and experience less cognitive dissonance.

  • How do you manage the norm against women “bragging” and showcasing their accomplishments?

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©Kathryn Welds

Confident Cluelessness = The Dunning-Kruger Effect + Ignorant Bliss

Stav Atir

Stav Atir

Many people overestimate their own expertise, and do not recognize their own incompetence.
It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect and has been demonstrated for people’s overestimates of their skills in grammar, emotional intelligence, logical reasoning, firearm care and safety, debating, and financial acumen.

Emily Rosenzweig

Emily Rosenzweig

Cornell’s Stav Atir and  Emily Rosenzweig of Tulane asked volunteers if they were familiar with concepts like centripetal force and photon as well as fictitious terms including plates of parallax, ultra-lipid, and cholarine.

About 90% of participants claimed some knowledge of at least one of the nine fake concepts, and people who thought they were most knowledgeable also said they recognized more of the meaningless terms.

David Dunning

David Dunning

Atir and Rosenzweig concluded that poor performers lack insight about their lack of skill because they ”don’t know what they don’t know.”

Another study by University of California San Diego’s Elanor Williams, Justin Kruger of NYU, and Cornell’s David Dunning asked volunteers to complete a logical reasoning task, an intuitive physics problem, and a financial acumen challenge.

Elanor Williams

Elanor Williams

Some participants achieved perfect scores and expressed confidence in their answers, yet those who achieved no correct answers expressed the same degree of confidence as the most able performers.

Both high and low achievers made judgments based on intuitive “rules,” so they felt confident because they had a clear rationale.
Williams’ team concluded, Rule-based confidence is no guarantee of self-insight into performance.”

Justin Kruger

Justin Kruger

Similarly, people who filed for bankruptcy said they had high confidence in their financial acumen, though their financial management skills didn’t keep them solvent.

More than 25,000 people rated their financial knowledge and completed the 2012 National Financial Capability Study, conducted by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority with the U.S. Treasury.
Of these, 800 respondents said they filed bankruptcy within the previous two years.

Bankruptcy filers achieved financial knowledge scores in the lowest third of respondents, but they rated their knowledge more positively than financially-solvent respondents.
Nearly a quarter of the recently bankrupted respondents gave themselves the highest possible rating, whereas only 13 percent of other respondents were equally confident.

Deborah Keleman

Deborah Keleman

Even 80 professionally-credentialed physical scientists at top universities provided a number of inaccurate purpose-driven (“teleological”) explanations about “why things happen” in the natural world.

Joshua Rottman

Joshua Rottman

When these professional scientists provided explanations under time constraints, they were twice as likely to endorse inaccurate rationales, reported Boston University’s Deborah Kelemen, Joshua Rottman, and Rebecca Seston.

Rebecca Seston

Rebecca Seston

Scientists were equally likely as humanities scholars to endorse inaccurate arguments despite most physical scientists’ rejection of purpose-driven explanations for natural phenomena.

These results suggest that most people hold pseudo-scientific explanations as “a default explanatory preference”, and could explain the attraction of myth and religion across cultures.

Most people hold a positive view of their capabilities even when faced with contrary evidence.
However, women may hold an unrealistically modest view of their capabilities despite affirming feedback.
These biases in self assessment suggest the importance of realistic recalibration of confidence, aligned with consensual feedback.

-*How do you minimize the risks of “Clueless Confidence”?

-*How can systematic underestimates of competence be reduced to increase “Realistic Confidence”?

Related Post:

Useful Fiction: Optimism Bias of Positive Illusions

Least Skillful Performers May Have Greatest Self-Delusions of Skill: Pointy-Haired Boss Effect

©Kathryn Welds