Why wearing too much makeup harms a woman's leadership chances
Women who aspire to be great leaders should put down the lipstick and go easy on the mascara, a new study suggests.
New research suggests that female bosses should not wear too much makeup because it could harm their authority.
Abertay University, in Dundee, Scotland asked participants to view a series of images of the same woman fresh faced, or made up as if for a social night out. Computer software was used to manipulate the amount of makeup worn.
They found that people judged heavily made up women as having poorer leadership skills than those who had not used cosmetics.
Dr Christopher Watkins of Abertay’s Division of Psychology, said it was possible women wearing make up were seen as more frivolous in the workplace, even though previous work which suggests makeup makes women more dominant.
“This research follows previous work in this area, which suggests that wearing makeup enhances how dominant a woman looks,” he 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 benefiting how we evaluate her in a leadership role.
“This work is a good example of the diverse and interesting research ongoing within the Division of Psychology.”
The findings are in contrast to Harvard University research in 2016 which found that women who wore make-up were deemed more competent at their jobs and more likely to be promoted.
A ‘professional’ look also earned marks for likability, while a ‘natural’ look won out for trustworthiness.
However the study also showed that women who were wearing more ‘glamorous’ looks were deemed less trustworthy, suggesting there is a makeup line which, when crossed, damages professionalism.
In 2013, a survey found that more than two thirds of British employers would be less likely to employ a female job applicant if she did not wear makeup to the job interview.
The new study was carried out by Abertay graduates Esther James and Shauny Jenkins and used a measurement scale common in face perception research, which calculates the first-impressions of the participant group as a whole, working out an average verdict.
For the study each participant completed a face perception task where they judged sixteen face-pairs, indicating how much better a leader they felt their chosen face to be compared to the other face.
It was found that both men and women evaluated women more negatively as a leader if the image suggested she was wearing a lot of makeup.
The researchers say the positive effects of makeup may be limited to certain roles within an organization, such as in service industry roles where attractiveness to clientele may be more important.
Previous studies have found that attractive people are more likely to be perceived as intelligent.
And research in 2016 by the University of Chicago found that women who turn up to work looking well-groomed earn significantly more money than their less-preened peers.
The research was published in the journal Perception.