Art Family/Photoshop

Study: Women Who Smile Less Could Be Promoted More

New research shows that cheerful women are not associated with leadership qualities.

By Manuel McDonnell Smith


Art Family/Photoshop

New research shows that smiling less could be key to more career success for women.

At a symposium hosted by Germany's Technische Universität München (TUM), researchers shared their discovery of several interesting insights into the selection and assessment of leaders in both business and academia. Largely, they concurred that long-held stereotypes still play a large role in today's modern workforce, especially as they pertain to female leaders.

Among their key findings:

  • Women are perceived as less willing to take on leadership roles if they give a cheerful impression than men who display similar emotions.
  • Employees expected "better performance" at tasks delegated to them by a male boss, rather than by female leadership.
  • Female managers who did not delegate decision-making power were viewed less favorably than male managers who performed in the same way.

The results of the research show that being competent, fair and innovative may not be enough for female workers to crack the glass ceiling. "These skills are not enough" articulates Professor Isabell Welpe, TUM's Chair for Strategy and Organization. "They ignore the fact that there are stereotypes that on a subconscious level play a decisive role in the assessment of high achievers. Leaders should be assertive, dominant and hard-lined; women are seen as mediators, friendly, social."

Efforts to break these stereotypes will need to focus not only on the perceptions of men, but of women themselves. Results from the studies also demonstrated that women expect more leadership qualities from men.  "The surprising thing is that some female stereotypes are more reinforced in the minds of women themselves—for example, their tendency to accept a dominant leadership style in men."

The researchers plan to use their findings to help companies and scientific organizations to assess the potential and performance of both men and women "beyond the limitations of stereotypes." Click here for more on the dangers of stereotypes from Dr. Claude Steele.

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