Perceptions of women’s leadership abilities are negatively impacted by makeup

Perceptions of women’s leadership abilities are negatively impacted by makeup

Just days after International Women’s Day, a new study has found that makeup can have a negative impact on perceptions of women’s leadership abilities in the workplace.

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The research was led by Dr Christopher Watkins at Abertay University in Scotland, and published in Perception journal. The study recruited 168 people (120 women and 48 men) to view 16 pairs of women. In each pair, one woman had no makeup and the other had makeup “for a social night out”. Participants were then asked to indicate which of the women they thought was a greater leader.

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The results showed that when it came to leadership, the majority of male and female participants viewed women who wore less makeup as the stronger choice.

“This research follows previous work in this area, which suggests that wearing makeup enhances how dominant a woman looks,” Dr Watkins said. “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.”

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These findings seem to contrast previous research on makeup in the workplace.

One 2011 study conducted by academics at Boston and Harvard Universities showed that makeup significantly increased perceptions of attractiveness and competence. Their results also showed that “natural” makeup looks rated highly for trustworthiness and likeability. Similarly, a 2016 study conducted by sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner suggested that women who were well-groomed (through practices like applying makeup and styling hair and clothing) earned significantly more than their less well-groomed female colleagues.

What are your thoughts on these studies? Do you feel any pressure to wear (or not wear) makeup in your workplace?

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