Are other women the cause of the glass ceiling?

Women want to help other women succeed. It’s why we have special mentoring groups, and “Women in Business” lunches, right? Theoretically, and maybe on a conceptual level. But, studies suggest that women don’t like to compete with women who are younger and prettier than they are.

But who is making the hiring decisions? Actual hiring decisions are made by front line managers, who are usually a pretty good mix of males and females. But, who decides what resumes actually make it to the managers? That’s where HR and recruiters come into the mix.
When researchers sent a pretty woman (defined as a woman with “low waist-to-hip ratio, clear skin, large breasts”) wearing a short skirt and low cut blouse into a room with other women, the results were pretty awful. The women reacted with, what the researchers described as, hostility. The attractive woman didn’t say anything rude, or even try to do anything to the other women in the room, but the comments about her were overwhelmingly negative.

To keep reading, click here: Are other women the cause of the glass ceiling?

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15 thoughts on “Are other women the cause of the glass ceiling?

  1. At least as you present the data in your article, I don’t think it’s fair to say that “in general women have negative reactions towards other pretty women” since the study you quote is European/Asian. This could be wishful thinking, but couldn’t the norms be different in the US? I know that I would certainly have an adverse reaction to a pretty woman in a short skirt and low cut blouse, but I would guess – based on nothing I admit – that if the same woman were professionally dressed, pretty is an advantage, not a disadvantage.

    1. The first study is Canadian, which admittedly is not in the US, but we have very similar cultures. Not identical, but similar.

      Other studies have shown that being pretty is helpful in getting ahead, but getting ahead requires impressing men as well as women. Getting hired involves impressing the people of HR, who are overwhelmingly female. I would guess that recruiters are even more likely to be female than HR over all–just my personal experience.

      1. “However, when the same pretty woman came in wearing jeans and a t-shirt and hair in a pony tail, she was ignored. It was the outfit that made the difference.”

        I was glad to see this comment, because my first reaction was to the clothing described (without seeing the person herself), which was unprofessional. I’d also like to see this in regard to not just normal vs. pretty women, but also overweight or otherwise not conventionally “normal” or “pretty” to see what the correlation is there. Is it that “normal” trumps BOTH pretty and not-pretty (for whatever reason in the societal/cultural custom)?

        Ah, looking at the pictures in the NYT article, it makes even more sense. The woman is wearing khaki-colored jeans, which is much less noticeable as unprofessional than blue jeans (and is probably why she was just ignored in that outfit). Clothes really do make a difference in a professional setting. (I’m not negating this is happening, though, particularly given the photograph study with resumes. That, to me, is more of an indicator than sending someone into a professional setting in unprofessional clothing.)

      2. Well yes, but the first study is tied more to reactions to attire than to reactions to pretty.It’s the second study that say that women who are pretty have a harder time getting interviews (in Europe/Asia) and it would be interesting to know the split between those two. Asia, at least, is behind where we are in gender equality in the workplace.

        1. This is in response not to Jessica’s comment, but to Evil HR Lady’s response to my initial comment

        2. But, you’d think that since 93% of HR people in that study were women, they’d be less judgy about hiring women than men would be. But, apparently not.

  2. This is so true! I worked for two women for years. I got so angry because, no matter what I did (and believe me, I bent over backwards), I couldn’t get promoted. Next, I worked for a man, and he promoted me in no time. I will never, ever work for another queen bee.

    1. I’m 50 and worked for a lot a different people. Your comment about “I worked for two women for years..” reeks of a biased attitude. It’s as bad as a dude saying “I hired a woman one time, it didn’t work out. I hate women on the team.” Or a dude saying “I promoted that one woman that one time, and it was horrible.” Hardly a large data set.

      I can say that as far as bad bosses, it’s about 50/50. I’ve worked for few women as I’m in a male dominated profession. However out of 4 women, 2 were horrible. On the male side, it’s about the same, a 50/50 shot of getting a good manager, and about a third of managers can really do damage to you.

  3. I guess I’m lucky, but the two female bosses I had, were really nice to me and I learn a lot from them. On the other hand, male bosses were more varied, I had good and bad male bosses, two of them to the point of being unprofessional and hit on me wich is a really uncomfortable situation.

    I think that at the end of the day, the best bosses are the ones that have a happy life outside work, no matter the sex.

  4. I’m a pretty big believer in equality and often make a point of pointing out that in my personal opinion most sexism is created by even discussing it in the first place and articles like this interest me as it sheds a completely different light on it. Most people don’t seem to care about male/female or whatever else, as long as the work gets done and the persons suitable.

  5. How I hated the NYT article and poorly drawn conclusions from the “pretty woman (defined as a woman with ‘low waist-to-hip ratio, clear skin, large breasts’)” experiment. First it these were a group of students, not professionals. Secondly, they did not react awfully to the ‘pretty woman’ in casual clothing. They did react with ‘negative comments’ when the same woman was dressed in a short skirt/tight shirt/high boots — but where was the study of men in simliar situation? Would a group of men react with hostility if a male student came into the room looking for one of the researchers (ie a professor) dressed in club gear (shorts, tank top, boots)? Students in a casual setting (not at work) commenting on somone who is dressed in provocative manner may be judgemental and ‘catty’ but I fail to see how this behavior can or why it would be used to interpret how women of all ages in general behave towards other women, or how women treat each other at work.

  6. Based on the picture in the article, the attire is quite frankly slutty looking, although both outfits are inappropriate for the white collar work world. Both send the wrong message in a professional environment. But the low cut top, short skirt and thigh high boots suggest she’s working in the oldest profession. I kid, but it would be pretty shocking to see someone dressed like that in an office.

    On that note, I have dealt with egotistical women bosses and coworkers who don’t like it when someone attractive might take the attention away from them even for a moment. And, if you’re a competent worker, that’s even worse. They want the spotlight and all the attention and praise. Sometimes it gets nasty. Often these women try to undermine the attractive person for their own egotistical needs. I’m sure there are egotistical men who do the same thing, but approach it differently.

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