Tag Archives: Madeline Heilman

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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When Women Predominate in Groups: Stigma Contagion

Women in Engineering or Information Technology organizations may find themselves the only person using the women’s restroom, one advantage in light of well-documented workplace challenges associated with minority status.
Men face similar challenges when they work in Human Resources, Marketing, or Communications, where more women are employed.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Vicki Belt

Vicki Belt

Despite potential isolation of experiencing gender minority status, Harvard’s Rosabeth Moss Kanter advised women who wish to advance: ”avoid the Ps: Personnel, Public Relations, Purchasing, to avoid being “pigeonholed in a female ghetto.
This recommendation was validated by Vicki Belt, then of University of Newcastle, and noted that technical women often intentionally avoided female-dominated groups.

Tessa West

Tessa West

In fact, both women and men held implicit biases against women-dominated groups, found Research by NYU’s Tessa West, Madeline Heilman, Lindy Gullett, and Joe Magee with Corinne Moss-Racusin of Yale University.

Madeline Heilman

Madeline Heilman

The team organized five-person groups to perform “a male-typed cooperative task” as quickly as possible.
Groups differed in proportion of women to men:

  • 2 women and 3 men
  • 3 women and 2 men
  • 4 women and 1 man.
Lindy Gullett

Lindy Gullett

Groups with more women performed equally well as the group with more men.

Joe Magee

Joe Magee

However, when the number of women increased in the work groups, participants’ evaluations of  the group’s effectiveness decreased. Similarly, both women and men offered lower ratings participants’ contributions when more women were in the work group.
Both men and women in the same group judged their own team mates more harshly when their groups have a greater proportion of women.

Corinne Moss-Racusin

Corinne Moss-Racusin

Group gender composition also negatively affected team cohesiveness:  After 10 weeks, those who worked in groups with more women said they were less interested in working together again.

West and team suggested that women in work groups may be subject to “stigma-by-association,” when negative evaluations of a stigmatized individual spread to an associated individual.
As a result, men who work with women may be subject to a “contagion effect” and may be perceived as having similar stereotypic strengths and weaknesses.

Carol Kulik

Carol Kulik

Hugh Bainbridge

Hugh Bainbridge

The prevalence of stigma-by-association in the workplace was conceptualized by University of South Australia’s Carol Kulik with Hugh Bainbridge of University of New South Wales and University of Melbourne’s Christina Cregan in a “masculine” performance task.
Women were evaluated as less competent at “masculine” tasks, and this negative evaluation was also assigned all group members through stigma contagion.

Michelle Haynes

Michelle Haynes

NYU’s Heilman extended her work on women’s perceptions of their capabilities in an ingeniously-designed study with Michelle Haynes of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

They asked participants to work remotely with another person on tasks traditionally associated with a male role:  Acting as a managing supervisor at an investment company.
Volunteers were paired with male or female “partners,” but each volunteer actually acted alone without a teammate.

When female participants received positive group feedback, they “gave away” credit to men “teammates” unless their contribution was specific and indisputable.
However, women showcased their accomplishments when they worked with female “partners.”
Women systematically undervalued their contributions to group problem-solving when they collaborated on teams with men, but not when they work with other women.

This study demonstrated that women’s expectations and beliefs about their work contexts, themselves, their peers, and organizational superior influence how they construe group feedback on performance.
Women may continue to limit their advancement when they implicitly accept micro-inequities and limiting performance stereotypes.

Anita Wooley Williams

Anita Wooley Williams

An unexpected positive finding about women’s role in work groups emerged from work by Carnegie Mellon University‘s Anita Williams Woolley, with Christopher F. Chabris of Union College, and MIT’s Alexander Pentland, Nada Hashmi, and Thomas W. Malone, who demonstrated that the “collective intelligence” of collaborative group members exceeds the cognitive abilities of individual members.

Christopher Chabris

Christopher Chabris

In fact, the average and maximum intelligence of individual group members did not significantly predict the performance of their groups overall.

Alexander Pentland

Alexander Pentland

This means that a group’s performance is more dependent on interaction behaviors and norms than on individual cognitive capabilities.
These findings support Emotional Intelligence theory’s assertion that self-management and interpersonal behaviors are more important to individual achievement than measured intelligence.

Nada Hashmi

Nada Hashmi

Wooley’s team assigned nearly 700 volunteers to groups ranging between two and five members to work on visual puzzles, negotiations, brainstorming, games and complex rule-based design assignments.
Collective intelligence of each group accounted for only about 40 percent of the variation in performance on this wide range of tasks.

Thomas W. Malone

Thomas W. Malone

The remaining 60% contribution to collective intelligence depends on members’ “social sensitivity“:  Accurately perceiving each other’s emotions, and ability to more equally share conversational turns.
Groups with more women excelled in both capabilities, and the team noted that accurate social perception and conversational turn-taking skills that may be further developed with attention and effort.

-*How can workplace Inclusion and Diversity programs mitigate the impact of stigma-by-association?

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