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She’s Got the Look: Inferences from Female Chief Executive Officers’ Faces Predict their Success

Abstract

Inferences from faces can predict success. This may be particularly important for women, who are often evaluated by their appearance. Here 170 northeastern U.S. undergraduates judged personality traits or leadership ability from the faces of all 20 U.S. Fortune 1,000: 2006 female chief executive officers (CEOs) and we compared these ratings to the same trait ratings made for male CEOs in a previous study. After controlling for cues important for female leaders (attractiveness, affect, age, and masculinity/femininity), ratings of competence and leadership predicted the amount of profits that the CEOs’ companies made and ratings of dominance predicted the amount of individual compensation that the CEOs received. CEOs’ success is therefore related to their facial appearance regardless of target and perceiver gender.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported in part by National Science Foundation grant BCS-0435547 to Nalini Ambady and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to Nicholas O. Rule.

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Correspondence to Nicholas O. Rule.

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Rule, N.O., Ambady, N. She’s Got the Look: Inferences from Female Chief Executive Officers’ Faces Predict their Success. Sex Roles 61, 644–652 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-009-9658-9

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Keywords

  • Gender
  • Personality
  • Business
  • Person perception
  • Nonverbal behavior