December 12, 2008

Why confident women face hiring challenge

Women who seek managerial roles face a double bind -- to be viewed as confident and ambitious, they risk prejudice for being unfeminine, U.S. researchers say.

For the study, Julie E. Phelan, Corinne A. Moss-Racusin and Laurie A. Rudman, all of Rutgers University taped both male and female applicants interviewing to be a computer lab manager. All applicants presented themselves as competent, but also as either confident and ambitious or modest and cooperative. Participants then evaluated the applicants' competence, social skills, and hirability.

The researchers say women who present themselves as confident and ambitious in job interviews are viewed as highly competent, but that are perceived to be lacking social skills. However, women who present themselves as modest and cooperative, while well liked, are perceived as low on competence.

By contrast, confident and ambitious male candidates are viewed as both competent and likable and therefore are more likely to be hired as a manager than either confident or modest women, the researchers said.

The study, published in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly, found that in performance settings where confidence and ambition are required to get ahead, men have a clear advantage.