Tag Archives: Benson Rosen

Women’s Likeability – Competence Dilemma: Overcoming the Backlash Effect

Madeline Heilman

Madeline Heilman

Aaron Wallen

Aaron Wallen

Women face significant workplace challenges when they are seen as successful in traditionally-male roles, found New York University’s Madeline Heilman, Aaron Wallen, Daniella Fuchs and Melinda Tamkins.

Melinda Tamkins

Melinda Tamkins

They conducted three experimental studies on reactions to a woman’s success in a male gender-typed job.
They found that when a woman is recognized as successful in roles dominated by men, they are less liked than equally successful men in the same fields.

Tyler Okimoto

Tyler Okimoto

Heilman extended the work with University of Queensland’s Tyler Okimoto, and reported that successful women managers avoided interpersonal hostility, dislike, and undesirability when they or others conveyed “communal” attributes, through their behaviors, testimonials of others, or their role as mothers.

Frank Flynn

Frank Flynn

Stanford’s Frank Flynn demonstrated the competence-likeability disconnect when he taught a Harvard Business School case of Silicon Valley venture capitalist and entrepreneur Heidi Roizen.

Heidi Roizen

Heidi Roizen

He and collaborator Cameron Anderson of UC Berkeley changed Heidi’s name to “Howard Roizen” for half of the students.

Cameron Anderson

Cameron Anderson

Participants who read the Heidi case and those who read the Howard case rated Heidi and Howard on several dimensions before the class meeting.

Volunteers rated Heidi as equally highly competent and effective as Howard, but they also evaluated her as unlikeable and selfish, and wouldn’t want to hire her or work with her.

Whitney Johnson-Lisa Joy Rosner

Whitney Johnson-Lisa Joy Rosner

A more recent example of backlash toward high-profile, accomplished women was illustrated in social media mentions of Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg and Anne-Marie Slaughter,

Whitney Johnson, co-founder of Rose Park Advisors (Disruptive Innovation Fund) and her colleague Lisa Joy Rosner evaluated Brand Passion Index” (BPI) for Mayer, Sandberg, and Slaughter over 12 months by:

  • Activity (number of media mentions),
  • Sentiment (positive or negative emotional tone),
  • Intensity (strong or weak sentiment).

Public Opinion-Mayer-Sandberg-SlaughterThese competent, well-known women were not liked, and were evaluated with harsh negative attributions based on media coverage and at-a-distance observations:

  • Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO, was described as impressive and super-smart, and annoying, a terrible bully,
  • Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg‘s was characterized as truly excellent, successful working mom and crazy bizarre,
  • Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department, was depicted as an amazing, successful mother and destructive, not a good wife,
Laurie Rudman

Laurie Rudman

The competence-likeability dilemma is also apparent in hiring behavior, demonstrated in experiments by Rutgers University’s Laurie Rudman and Peter Glick of Lawrence University.

Volunteers made “hiring decisions” for male and female “candidates” competing for a “feminized” managerial role and a “masculinized” managerial role.

Peter Glick

Peter Glick

Applicants were presented as:

  • “Agentic” (demonstrating stereotypically male behaviors) or
  • “Communal” (displaying stereotypically female behaviors) or
  • “Androgynous” (combining stereotypically male and female behaviors)

Women who displayed “masculine, agentic” traits were viewed as less socially acceptable  and were not selected for the “feminized” job.
However, this hiring bias did not occur when agentic women applied for the “male” job.

Niceness was not rewarded when competing for jobs:  Both male and female “communal” applicants received low hiring ratings.
However, combining niceness with agency seemed to buffer “androgynous” female applicants from discrimination in the simulated hiring process.

Rudman and Glick noted that “… women must present themselves as agentic to be hireable, but may therefore be seen as interpersonally deficient.”
They advised women to “temper their agency with niceness.”

Linda Babcock

Linda Babcock

Once women receive job offers, the competence-likeability disconnect continues when they negotiate for salary and position, reported by Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon.
Her research demonstrated and replicated negative evaluations of women who negotiate for salaries using the same script as men.

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld

The likeability-competence dilemma may result from women’s challenges in integrating expansive, powerful body language with more submissive, appeasing behavior to build relationships and acknowledge others’ authority, suggested Stanford’s Deborah Gruenfeld.

She posited that many women have been socialized to adopt less powerful body positions and body language including:

  • Smiling,
  • Nodding,
  • Tilting the head,
  • Applying fleeting eye contact,
  • Speaking in sentence fragments with uncertain, rising intonation at sentence endings.

In addition, many people expect women to behave in these ways, and negatively evaluate behaviors that differ from expectations.

Body language is the greatest contributor to split-second judgments of people’s competence, according to Gruenfeld.
She estimated that body language is responsible for about 55% of judgments, whereas self-presentation accounts for 38%, and words for just 7% — in less than 100 milliseconds.

Her earlier work considered the impact of body language on assessments of power, whereas her more recent work investigated gender differences in attributions of competence and likeability.

The likeability-competence dilemma may be improved by shifting from “playing high” or taking space when demonstrating competence and authority.
Powerful body language may be risky for women unless counterbalanced with “playing low” or giving space when conveying approachability, empathy, and likeability, she noted.

Posing in more powerful positions for as little as two minutes can change levels of testosterone, a marker of dominance, just as holding a submissive posture for the same time can increase cortisol levels, signaling stress, according to Gruenfeld.
She urged women to practice both awareness and “the mechanics of powerful body language.”

Alison Fragale

Alison Fragale

Women’s competence-likeability dilemma is not mitigated by achieving workplace success and status.
University of North Carolina’s Alison Fragale, Benson Rosen, Carol Xu, Iryna Merideth found that successful women – and men, like Mayer, Sandberg, and Slaughter, are judged more harshly for mistakes than lower status individuals who make identical errors.

Benson Rosen

Benson Rosen

Fragale’s team found that observers attributed greater intentionality, malevolence, self-concern to the actions of high status wrongdoers than the identical actions of low status wrongdoers, and recommended more severe punishments for higher status individuals in two experiments.

Iryna Meridith

Iryna Meridith

The team found preventive and reparative value in qualities of warmth and likeability.
Wrongdoers who demonstrated affiliative concern for others, charitable giving, and interpersonal warmth built a reservoir of goodwill that could protect from the impact of subsequent mistakes and transgressions.

Navigating the likeability-competence dilemma requires demonstrating both capacities, depending on situational requirements.
Learning this skill can take a lifetime.

-*How do you convey likeability AND competence?

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Attractive Appearance Helps Men – but not Women – Gain Business Funding

Laura Huang

Laura Huang

Entrepreneurs create jobs and contribute to economic growth with early investment by financial backers who trust the perceived business proposal’s viability and the founders’ previous experience.

Alison Wood Brooks

Alison Wood Brooks

Additional implicit criteria for new venture-funding include gender and physical attractiveness, asserted Harvard’s Alison Wood Brooks, Laura Huang of Wharton, MIT’s Sarah Wood Kearney and Fiona E. Murray.

Sarah Wood Kearney

Sarah Wood Kearney

Brooks and colleagues enlisted 60 experienced investors to:

  • Evaluate videos of 90 randomly-selected presentations by entrepreneurs at three pitch contests in the US,
  • Comment on presenters’ appearance and effectiveness.
Fiona E. Murray

Fiona E. Murray

Male presenters who were rated more attractive were 36% more likely to receive funding than men judged as less attractive, but there was no difference in funding rates for women based on attractiveness ratings.

In a separate study, investors evaluated identical pitches delivered by a man or a woman, and rated male-narrated pitches as more persuasive, logical and fact-based compared with the same presentation delivered by a woman.

These finding suggest that financial backers favor attractive male entrepreneurs, leaving women entrepreneurs – attractive or not – at a disadvantage in creating new businesses, jobs, and economic growth.

This finding underscores financial backers’ preference for male entrepreneurs’ proposals, based on attractive men’s greater perceived persuasiveness than women or less attractive men.

Edward Thorndike

Edward Thorndike

Previous blog posts have noted the “halo effect” of physical attractiveness leading to positive attributions of intelligence, competence, and likeability, originally described by Columbia’s Edward Thorndike.

Woods’ latest findings point to the double advantage enjoyed by attractive men seeking new venture funding.
Aspiring women entrepreneurs, on the other hand, continue to encounter significant unacknowledged disadvantages, not improved by physical attractiveness.

Eleanor Holly Buttner

Eleanor Holly Buttner

However, these findings were not confirmed by University of North Carolina’s E. Holly Buttner and Benson Rosen in their investigation of bank loan officers’ funding decisions.

Loan officers, who typically make funding decisions based on the business plan and interview with the entrepreneur, evaluated a:

  • Business plan or
  • Business plan plus a videotaped interview conducted by a loan officer with a male or female entrepreneur seeking a loan to start a business.
Benson Rosen

Benson Rosen

Bankers rated their likelihood of:

  • Recommending loan approval of the requested amount,
  • Making a counteroffer of a smaller amount, which they specified.

This study found no difference in funding decisions for male entrepreneurs compared with female entrepreneurs presenting the same business case.
In fact, loan officers made larger counteroffers to female entrepreneurs when considering both the business plan and the loan application interview.

Student volunteers’ loan funding decisions were compared with loan professionals, and the younger generation of lay people made larger counteroffers to the male entrepreneur instead of the female when they evaluated both the business plan and the loan interview,
Loan officers, in contrast, made significantly more cautious and conservative funding decisions than student participants.

Buttner and Benson recommended that female entrepreneurs ask to meet with loan officers to present their business proposals because this personal contact resulted in more successful funding of requested loans.

John Becker-Blease

John Becker-Blease

Another source of funding is “angel investors,” and Oregon State University’s John R. Becker-Blease and Jeffrey E. Sohl of University of New Hampshire found no difference in funding for male and female entrepreneurs.
They noted that women seek private investments substantially lower rates than men, but they are equally likely to receive investment.

However, when the “angels” are women, female entrepreneurs are more likely to seek financing and are as likely to receive the requested funding.

Jeffrey Sohl

Jeffrey Sohl

Women entrepreneurs may still face obstacles in starting new ventures,  a barrier shared with less attractive males.

-*How do you mitigate biases based on gender or attractiveness when asking for funding – for a business, initiative, or idea?

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