Pretty female bosses are viewed as untrustworthy and ‘man eaters’ by employees



Attractive women bosses are considered less truthful and trustworthy by both s3xes, research has found.

In tests, hundreds of male and female participants said they thought a pretty female boss was less likely to be honest.

They were also considered more deserving of being fired than a less attractive counterpart.

Good looks are often thought to be advantageous in life, whether when it comes to getting served in shops or pubs or being more likely to succeed at a job interview, and even the likelihood you are found guilty in court.

But when it comes to the most senior roles, however, attractive women were considered to be more deceitful.

It seems that any woman who shatters the glass ceiling is perceived to have used underhand methods to get there, the research suggests.

Researchers from Washington State University and others dubbed the distrust of the attractive female boss ‘the Femme Fatale syndrome’.

The authors suggest that a beautiful woman boss will have to work hard to convince people that she deserves her place through hard work, rather than looks alone or through ‘ingratiation, manipulation or seduction.’

The idea that there is prejudice against female bosses is not new.

But this has been explained in the past on the idea that women ‘aren’t fitting’ in a traditional masculine role as a boss.

The latest study rejects this explanation and, based on a series of experiments, suggests the distrust is motivated by deep-seated sexual insecurity and jealousy.

Leah Sheppard, lead author of the paper, said:

‘Highly attractive women can be perceived as dangerous and that matters when we are assessing things like how much we trust them and whether we believe that what they are saying is truthful.

‘It becomes more nuanced when we look at gender,’ she added.

‘For women there are certain contexts in which they don’t seem to benefit from their beauty.’ 

Evolution has coloured our view to think that attractive women are more likely to be liars, the researchers suggest.

Attractive females were in our evolutionary history more likely to steal male sexual partners away, and this colours our perception of female business leaders.

Men are distrustful because although they may find women bosses desirable, their view is coloured by an idea that beautiful women, precisely because they are more desired, are more likely to be unfaithful.

To conduct their experiments, the researchers used images drawn from a Google images search for a ‘professional woman’ and had participants rate their attractiveness.

In one experiment with 198 participants, both women and men were asked to assess how truthful a female boss was delivering bad news from their company.

Both sexes said they were less likely to believe the attractive woman rather than the male leader.

The attractive female bosses were also thought more deserving of being fired.

In further experiments, the effect was found to persist – in the job of public relations officer.

This is a role traditionally considered feminine and for which looks are considered important, the authors suggest.

As the distrust remained, the researchers reject the idea that the distrust is based on the woman not ‘fitting’ in a traditional male role.

But in another experiment, levels of distrust were reduced in both sexes when attempts were made to make them feel more sexually secure.

To ‘prime’ participants to feel more secure, the participants were asked to think and write about a time when they felt secure in a relationship and certain that their romantic partner was ‘faithful and committed to them alone.’

This made them to feel more s3xually secure and also made them feel better about themselves.

The researchers said that those primed to feel sexually secure ended up thinking attractive women were just as trustworthy as less attractive women.

Professor Sheppard said, that whether the perception was unfair or not attractive women may have to work harder to be accepted.

She said:

‘They’re going to be challenged in terms of building trust.

‘That’s not to say that they can’t do it. It’s just that trust is probably going to form a bit more slowly.’ 

The full findings of the study were published in the journal S3x Roles.


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