Sex Roles

, Volume 75, Issue 3–4, pp 95–109 | Cite as

But You Don’t Look Like A Scientist!: Women Scientists with Feminine Appearance are Deemed Less Likely to be Scientists

  • Sarah BanchefskyEmail author
  • Jacob Westfall
  • Bernadette Park
  • Charles M. Judd
Original Article


Two studies examined whether subtle variations in feminine appearance erroneously convey a woman’s likelihood of being a scientist. Eighty photos (half women) of tenured/tenure-track science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) faculty at elite research universities were selected from the Internet. Participants, naïve to the targets’ occupations, rated the photos on femininity and likelihood of being a scientist and an early childhood educator. Linear mixed model analysis treated both participants and stimuli as random factors, enabling generalization to other samples of participants and other samples of stimuli. Feminine appearance affected career judgments for female scientists (with increasing femininity decreasing the perceived likelihood of being a scientist and increasing the perceived likelihood of being an early childhood educator), but had no effect on judgments of male scientists. Study 2 replicated these findings with several key procedural modifications: the presentation of the stimuli was manipulated to either be blocked by gender or completely randomized, questions pertaining to the stimuli’s appearance were removed, and a third career judgment likelihood rating was added to avoid tradeoffs between scientist and early childhood educator. In both studies, results suggest that for women pursuing STEM, feminine appearance may erroneously signal that they are not well suited for science.


Gendered appearance Stereotypes Femininity Face perception Physical appearance Science STEM Sexism 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

The University of Colorado Boulder’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved the research presented in the manuscript. This research did not receive external funding.

Conflict of Interest

There were no conflicts of interest in conducting this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Banchefsky
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jacob Westfall
    • 2
  • Bernadette Park
    • 1
  • Charles M. Judd
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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