The Phoenix

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Sexy Managers Get No Respect

Just when you thought it was safe to wear a low-cut blouse...

It seems that the more sexy a woman of power dresses, the less intelligent she appears to others. A study conducted by Peter Glick, professor at the University of Lawrence, Wisconsin, finds that this discrimination was particularly obvious when the sexy woman was a manager. The study, which is being published in December's issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly, involved men and women participants viewing different videos of women talking about their hobbies/interests while being alternately dressed in conservative attire and more revealing sexy attire.

The findings: Participants were asked to make presumptions concerning each woman with respect to her perceived intelligence, competence, education, and GPA. The sexy attire of the receptionists seemed unaffected, as were the women wearing flat dress shoes, a turtle neck, blazer, and more conservative clothing. However, it seems the women managers wearing the sexy clothing were viewed as less competent.

Peter Glick believes, "A female manager whose appearance emphasized her sexiness elicited less positive emotions, more negative emotions, and perceptions of less competence on a subjective rating scale and less intelligence on an objective scale."

Does that sound surprising?

The common belief is that a woman in a position of power must prove her worthiness by working harding, being smarter, and even acting and dressing more masculine. Disagree? Hey, remember those 80s women powersuits? Ever catch an episode of Dynasty? Those powersuits had shoulder pads as big as aircraft carriers. You could set a stack of books on each shoulder with those things. These dresses were designed to give women a more manly look. Perhaps there's been a backlash from those ogre-looking dresses and women decided to look more womanly. Call it revenge of femininity.

I work with many different kinds of businesses, and I've been seeing more women dressing more and more sexy. Just watch women lawyers really look THAT hot? Glick adds, ""Although various media directed toward women …encourage women to emphasize their sex appeal, our results suggest that women in high status occupations may have to resist this siren call to obtain the respect of their co-workers."

So is the pendulum swinging the other way? Are we going to see women dressing more like linebackers? Why do women managers get such a bad rap anyway?

Jessica Salasky, businesswoman extraordinare and creator of the Confidence Builders seminars, says that from her interviews of over 2000 men AND women, 75% of them said they preferred to have a male manager over a female one.

Being reprimanded by a female manager is a worker's worst nightmare. Perceptions of their female manager in such situations was FAR more negative. Leane Atwater, author of ''Gender and Discipline in the Workplace — Wait Until Your Father Gets Home,'' reports that workers that received any type of disciplinary were:
*less likely to believe the punishment was fair
*less likely to accept responsibility for their actions
*more likely to believe the female manager was incompetent or ineffective in delivering discipline

It seems female managers are already perceived as evil and incompetent. Does dressing more sexy exaserbate the situation? Maybe. Is the "female boss is an uber bitch" stereotype supported by such a large number of female bosses being so mean and ineffective? Personally, I've had three female bosses and every single one of them was a major pain in the ass. Is that from my skewed, limited, and sexist perspective? That's quite possible. But looking back, I have to say that each female boss was the bane of my existence at the time.

In my anger and frustration during stressful situations with a female boss, a million thoughts ran through my mind. I never verbalized these thoughts since I wanted to keep my job and sexual harrassing your boss is probably not a very effective method to achieving 'employee of the month.' The following are things I wanted to say out of pure hatred, but never had the guts to. All of these are anger-based and quite sexist. For those that are easily offended, you should read no more. For the rest of you, I have bitten my tongue whilst I wish I could have said:

"Are you keeping track of my bathroom breaks because you're concerned about my bladder health?"

"So whom did you have to have sex with in order to get promoted?"

"Are you working so hard in order to pay for a re-assignment surgery?"

"You can afford the most expensive clothes and makeup, but you'll never be pretty."

"Stop bragging about your kids. They're spoiled and ugly, now leave me alone."

"I'm sorry for eating one of your chocolate bars in the refrigerator. I was just trying to help you lose weight."

"Cussing like a sailor won't make a penis grow between your legs."

And not ONE of my bosses dressed in a sexy manner at any time.


Blogger David Amulet said...

The obvious solution: Eunuch bosses. Or maybe something androgynous and robotic. Like David Bowie in the ealry 70s. No sexual tension there ...

-- david

11/30/2005 3:51 PM  
Blogger Kay said...

I will keep this in mind when I have to shop for new clothes for the new job (not your venting, just the study!)

11/30/2005 3:51 PM  
Blogger The Phoenix said...

Actually, my venting is exaggerated. I've had three female bosses that were incredibly mean, cold, and downright back-stabbing. Two other bosses were professional and were a pleasure to work for.

11/30/2005 3:57 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

hahahaa... I like the "eating the chocolate" comment.

I prefer working for male bosses, myself.

11/30/2005 4:14 PM  
Blogger Sherri said...

Hmmm... well, I happen to be a female boss, but I hope I'm not like any of the ones you are referring to. I treat my employees like I want to be treated, and am always direct and fair.

As for the 'looks' issue, I must say when I am standing side by side with a male counterpart, it is always the male counterpart that is taken seriously. I do find it extremely frustrating. And, I don't even dress sexy at work.

this was a very thought provoking post phoenix.

11/30/2005 4:42 PM  
Blogger Reiki said...

I always thought I preferred male bosses until I got one that was the most chauvanistic pig you can ever imagine. And he so obviously treated me as though I was an idiot because I was a young woman who did dress sexy at work and treated the men and frumpy chic I worked with with much more ill-deserved respect. It is a shame, but most people whether they admit it or not- male and female do not think an attractive sexy woman can also be smart...

11/30/2005 4:52 PM  
Blogger The Phoenix said...

Sherri, I know you are a great boss. You're right, it seems sexism still exists in the workplace.

There was another study done...a set made up of one very attractive man and one very attractive woman versus a man and a woman very average-looking.

The four separated and each pretended to be lost and needed directions, soliciting help from strangers. With the aid of a hidden camera, it was SO obvious the very attractive couple were each getting tons and tons of help.

The average guy got nearly no help from strangers, and the average woman later received a little help from people. For the attractive people, strangers were even willing to escort them to their destinations.

I think, however, it's a completely different matter when it comes to an attractive woman in a position of POWER.

11/30/2005 5:08 PM  
Blogger Meagan said...

I especially like this comment:

"Stop bragging about your kids. They're spoiled and ugly, now leave me alone."

Gosh, there's so many times I've wanted to say that.

Sorry, this comment probably isn't totally related to the actual topic at hand. :-)

love meagan

11/30/2005 5:52 PM  
Blogger KC said...

My favorite boss ever was a woman I worked for in the 80's. She was intelligent, articulate, and if she said she was going to do something -- it got done. I will always think of her as the epitome of what any boss should be like - man or woman. And no, she didn't dress sexy, although she was an attractive woman.

11/30/2005 6:19 PM  
Anonymous the weirdgirl said...

I'd be interested to see what they considered "sexy clothing". Is a power suit with a slightly shorter skirt sexy? Or are they talking clingy tops and pants with no jacket?

I've had three really mean bosses, two female and one male (though he was totally gay). I know for a fact that one of those women thought (and treated) the attractively dressed women around her like they were stupid. But she also went out of her way to try to make people look stupid, too, to hide her own incompetence. It didn't work too well with me, though, because I would call her on her bad behavior (see, I would have made the bladder comment). She really hated me (and she got her ass fired eventually too). Being a large woman she didn't dress sexy in the least.

All of my other bosses, male and female, were great.

11/30/2005 7:02 PM  
Blogger angel, jr. said...

yeah, remember when the Donald pounced on the females for using their sex to win their task?
I'm not so sure it has it's place in the business world.
But I don't think that the way a person dresses reflects their actual IQ.

11/30/2005 7:56 PM  
Blogger NowhereGirl said...


You go with your bad self. All of that anger, angst, frustration...

I like it babe =)

11/30/2005 11:54 PM  
Blogger Grafs said...

Female bosses ARE a pain. I think it's because they focus so much more on the social aspects in the office and are all too critical on a social level. Male bosses (the one's who aren't female in attitude) tend to focus on your performance more. I have to say that male bosses are a little more difficult for women to get close to. I noticed that most of my male co-workers were more in favor because they went out and played golf, drank, and went to strip clubs together with the boss.

12/01/2005 6:16 AM  
Blogger Dirk the Feeble said...

The biggest problem here, and the biggest reason for all the gender misconceptions, is that females are inferior to males.

Women aren't very good at being the boss because they're too emotional and they're always on their periods.

Men should always be in the positions of authority because we're just better at it - it's in the Bible, so it must be true.

That's why there will never be a woman president, at least not a good one. They just can't handle the pressure, and they wouldn't be able to go to a summit or something without dressing like a total skank and trying to whore herself out the other delegates (that sort of thing is bred into a woman's DNA).

Summation: Women need to get back in the kitchen where they belong and bake me a pie.

12/01/2005 10:02 AM  
Blogger :P fuzzbox said...

Maybe female bosses feel that they have to try harder and that is why so many of them end up being out and out bitches. Even the ones that I have worked for and with that I have considered highly competent have shown one hell of a catty streak when they think that someone is crossing them.

12/01/2005 10:14 AM  
Blogger Anhoni Patel said...

Phoenix: maybe if they dressed sexier, you wouldn't have thought they were such bitches. Maybe when they were yelling at you/bossing, you could have thought: Well, at least they're eye candy. Maybe that would have softened the blow.

12/01/2005 10:48 AM  
Blogger The Phoenix said...

If they had dressed sexier, I think it wouldn't have made a difference. One female boss was very attractive, but dressed conservatively.

I agree with :p. They feel they have to try harder. Also, I think it's because women take things so much more personally then men do. It's a broad generalization, but one I believe is true. A female boss is more likely to become vindictive.

12/01/2005 10:55 AM  
Blogger ObilonKenobi said...

I've had a plethora of female bosses. I started out after college in the design field where there are many women. My first boss was a rather unattrative female who was extremely fair and treated all her employees as if they were gold. Her second in command, a rather more attractive female was hard-assed but respected. She had a cruch on me and made it known yet she still treated me fairly and didn'ttreat me any better. My next job was in NYC working for a Woman's Interior Design Magazine. My superiors were in order: 1. A very fair, great, enthusiastic female of about 50. 2. A 40-something gay man who was very difficult but fair. 3. A 40-something female who was very hard to work for, as was her assistant who liked me but I got the feeling that they both wanted to "break" me because I was very outspoken in my desing opinions. In that job though, my very immediate manager was a female of my age and I loved her to death. She could do no wrong in my eyes and she treated me better than gold. (As a matter of fact when we went out to lunch together even in formal occasions she'd make sure I always had enough to eat. Very mothering but in a way that you knew we were really just friends.) Since that time I've had male bosses and when I was growing up I worked a lot of construction jobs with male bosses. They were all hard asses and very tough. FOr a long time I thought that I prefered to work for females. Now I'm split. I don't mind a female boss and I don't even mind being repremanded by a female over a male but When you have a male boss and you are a male there is more of that comproderie and "old-boy" stuff that goes on that I like. I like being able to talk sports and go to lunch with all guys sometimes but in general I do not have a problem with female bosses.

Here's my sexist note: There is something about a very sexy female boss who dresses hot. Gotta love it.

In general, I have a very good sense of humor and ususally unless a woman is out to prove herself and has a chip on their shoulder I can get them to warm up a little bit.

12/01/2005 12:40 PM  
Blogger Keshi said...

Not fair...cos I dun think that being 'sexy' defines who u really r...

**It seems that the more sexy a woman of power dresses, the less intelligent she appears to others

bullll! :) Cos I know ppl who wear quite sexy outfits but r very competent and smart at their jobs...and r respected too. By SEXY i didnt mean looking like a street girl...I mean smart feminine clothes. So it really depends on how one defines 'sexy' :)


12/01/2005 9:04 PM  
Blogger The Phoenix said...

The study that's being published in the Psychology Of Women Quarterly said the sexy attire included: tighter skirts, lower cut blouse, and high heels.

Interestingly, the study showed that both men AND women deemed the female manager less competent. The woman that was a receptionist, for example, didn't receive any negative comments from the respondents.

This is a psychological study, remember, and this deals only with generalizations. You might know several women that dress feminine and are very competent. This study demonstrates how a VAST majority of people still judge a book by its cover - particularly with women in power.

12/01/2005 9:46 PM  
Blogger FLAMINGO1 said...

I could give a shit less what somebody is wearing. The question is are they doing a good job or not. If an individual is a competent and effective employee, I can tolerate their style. This is one more piece of evidence of how shallow the majority of society is. Appearance is more important than substance. Reaction by our genitals is more compelling that rational thought.

12/02/2005 8:40 AM  
Blogger The Phoenix said...

Yeah, it's too bad as a species we are shallow.

Judging by appearances, however, is ingrained in us. It is pure instinct, and it was a skill developed by early man for survival.

It's also instinctive in the "courting" process.

We all do it, we all gather first impression via appearance. But hopefully we can suspend judgment and look at the real person too.

12/02/2005 8:50 AM  
Blogger Pixie said...

I myself have always found male bosses fairer them women, all the women bosses I have had have always let personal feelings and emotions come into their reactions to different situations and people.
Thais makes me sad to say this but there I said it !

12/02/2005 3:35 PM  
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