Women wearing heavy makeup are "less likely to be thought of as good leaders"

Rebecca Smith
The same face, different leadership opinions
The same face, different leadership opinions (Source: Abertay University)

The amount of makeup a woman is wearing can negatively impact perceptions of her leadership ability, according to a study out today from Abertay University.

Yes, really. It seems people actually are swayed in their opinions of an individual's leadership credentials based on how much lipstick they have on.

The research, published in Perception journal, found women wearing heavy makeup were "less likely to be thought of as good leaders". Study participants were asked to view a series of images featuring the same woman - with and without cosmetics, and with makeup applied for a social night out.

Read more: Mark Carney says these are the three things good leaders must do

Computer software was used to manipulate the faces and the amount of makeup visible, and each participant completed a face perception task judging 16 pairs of faces. They were asked to say how good a leader they felt the chosen face would be compared to the other one.

Both men and women rated the female faces more negatively as a leader if they had more makeup on.

Now, Bank of England governor Mark Carney last month set out three things he thinks good leaders should do. And somehow, he didn't think of adding "putting down the eyeliner" to the list.

(He instead opted for finding and developing the right people, setting priorities and catalysing action, in case you were wondering.)

Dr Christopher Watkins, who led the study, said:

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

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.

Read more: The awful questions managers still think are OK to ask women at interviews

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