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Tips for Men at Work

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1. Change the “Likeability Penalty”

Did You Know?

In a Columbia Business School study, different groups of students read a case study about a venture capitalist with one single difference—gender. Students respected both “Howard” and “Heidi,” but Howard was described as likeable and Heidi was seen as selfish and not “the type of person you would want to hire or work for.”


Success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. When a man is successful, his peers often like him more; when a woman is successful, both men and women often like her less. This trade-off between success and likeability creates a double-bind for women. If a woman is competent she does not seem nice enough, but if a woman seems really nice, she is considered less competent. This can have a big impact on a woman's career. Ask yourself: Who are you more likely to support and promote, the man

with high marks across the board or the woman who has equally high marks but is just not as well liked?

This bias often surfaces in the way women are described, both in passing and in performance reviews. When a woman asserts herself—for example, by speaking in a direct style or promoting her ideas—she is often called “aggressive,” “ambitious,” or “out for herself.” When a man does the same, he is seen as “confident” and “strong.”


Listen for the language of the likeability penalty, including that a woman is “political” or “pushy.” When you hear biased language, request a specific example of what the woman did and then ask, “Would you have the same reaction if a man did the same thing?” In many cases, the answer will be no. Remember that you can also fall into these bias traps, so think carefully about your own response to female coworkers.

1. Change the “Likeability Penalty”

Category: Taxes

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