New research on heavy make-up embeds bias
Heavy make-up has a negative impact on the perception of women's leadership skills
You're kidding, right? Yet another conversation around women and appearance. Now it's heavy make-up.
It seems we are still talking about, and spending more money researching women and make-up. Or more precisely now it's women and heavy make-up. Research, conducted by Abertay University, revealed that the amount of make-up a woman wears can have a negative impact on perceptions of her leadership ability. Really? But perhaps this is just about confirming bias around the perceptions of women who wear heavy make-up, or any at all. What does this mean and why does it even matter? Why should wearing make-up, heavy or otherwise, or none at all, impact skill levels or competence and an ability to lead?
The research was carried out by Dr Christopher Watkins of Abertay’s Division of Psychology. He showed participants 16 face-pairs of women, one with make-up applied for a “social night out” (whatever that is) and one without. Participants were then asked to choose which one of the two they felt would make a better leader. The results showed both men and women evaluated women more negatively as a leader if the image suggested she was wearing a lot of makeup. Computer software was used to manipulate the faces and the amount of makeup was also manipulated in the face images.
Only a short while ago we were told that women who didn't wear make-up were considered to be more likeable and competent than those who don't. Research from the European Commission (2013) also suggests that women's appearance is more significant in the recruitment process (ranked third) than the appearance of their male counterparts (ranked 9).
Get the recognition and opportunities you deserve, not by wearing the exact right amount of make-up but by realising your full potential. Contact 3Plus NOW for Leadership and Executive Coaching.
Doomed if they do ... damned if the don't
This is just more "doomed if they do and damned if they don't" for women. These results tap into the age-old bias about women and their appearance. In particular they focus on the message that women who wear heavy make-up means ... what exactly? They like to go out and if they go out they can't possibly do a good job and be a leader? Or perhaps it could be that they like to pile on the make-up for a night in front of the T.V. with a box set and a pizza.
The fact is that the make-up applied as if for a "night out" is a long way from what most women would wear professionally. And every woman dresses differently for a social night out anyway. Dr Watkins said:
“This research follows previous work in this area, which suggests that wearing makeup enhances how dominant a woman looks. While the previous findings suggest that we are inclined to show some deference to a woman with a good-looking face, our new research suggests that makeup does not enhance a woman’s dominance by benefitting how we evaluate her in a leadership role."
Rather than blanket acceptance of this type of research, we should be looking at the underlying bias that produces these results. Could it be that people don't like to see images of "dominant" women - whatever that means. Yet this research makes no mention of bias.
Dominance and prestige
However another study by researchers at the University of Sterling in Scotland (maybe this pre-occupation with make-up is a Scottish thing) does. They noted that the wearing of makeup impacted an interviewer’s opinion of the candidate. Furthermore, there was an observable variance between male and female interviewers.
Dr. Viktoria Mileva, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the university said:
“Either you are dominant, which means you are happy using forcefulness or manipulation to make people follow you. Alternatively, you can gain high status by prestige; by having positive merits and qualities that make others want to follow you. Men think women with make-up are more ‘prestigious,’ while women think women with make-up are more dominant.”
So why is it that women view women wearing make-up to be “dominant” instead of “prestigious?” Dr. Mileva said it “might be related to jealousy and threat potential.”
Dr. Mileva carried out some follow-up studies focusing on the perception of women wearing make-up being perceived as more dominant. Her conclusions related to the primal anthropology of jealousy and threat potential.
“Women rating women with make-up said they would be more jealous of them, thought they were more promiscuous, and would be more attractive to men than their non-makeup-wearing counterparts.”
Skills and competences
This research comes at a time when automated interview platforms are telling women not to wear make-up because it's distracting. All this is doing is embedding bias around women even deeper under the auspices of pseudo research.
Unsure of the impression you make on others? 3Plus can help you with our FREE Executive Presence Self-Assessment.
Found that interesting?
Learn more about our services
Make your dreams a reality with a professional evaluation of your career to date.
The evidence is in. More women in your company can deliver 35% greater financial returns. (Catalyst)
Dates for the Diary
JUNE 6-8TH 2019 - OMBUDSPERON EUROPEAN WOMEN’S LOBBY BRUSSELS
Download and listen free podcasts
How to Create an Effective USP What is a USP? Our Unique Selling Point or UVP (Unique Value Proposition) is our key core message about where...read more
How to Rethink the Modern Workplace for Gender Equality New research shows that diversity and inclusion is a top priority for leaders. So why...read more
Menopause in the workplace In this podcast with Nicki Williams award winning author, keynote speaker and Founder of Happy Hormones for Life,...read more
How to Cultivate Empathy in the Workplace Nancy Milton, international business communications expert, keynote speaker and author, share some vital...read more
Taking Care of your COW Tanvi Guatam, international Personal Branding expert says there is a misconception out there that a personal brand is...read more
The importance of Hard Talk Dawn Metcalfe, author of Managing the Matrix and Hard Talk, shares with us tips to achieve the lasting communication...read more
When Does Female Rivalry Turn into Sabotage There’s a lot of stuff written on social media about female rivalry and competition between women. Some...read more
Goal setting tips to boost your career The happiest people are those that really love their jobs. Those that don’t, dread Sunday nights and...read more
Sexism: How to stage a Bystander Intervention in the Workplace In this power coaching podcast, we're going to tackle one of the questions...read more
How to Get Noticed by Head Hunters & Recruiters In this power coaching podcast, we're going to tackle one of the questions asked multiple...read more
When you pitch for flexi-time you need to make a strategic plan so that you get the result you want. This is how to do it.read more
A good job offer isn’t just about the salary; it’s about the workplace culture, expectations, and additional benefits too.read more
Failure doesn’t have to be a bad outcome if you turn your mistakes into wins instead. These tips will help you to learn how.read more