The deficit bias: Candidate gender differences in the relative importance of facial stereotypic qualities to leadership hiring

Sara Pireddu*, Renata Bongiorno, Michelle K. Ryan, Monica Rubini, Michela Menegatti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Recent findings highlight two facets of the two fundamental stereotype content dimensions of agency (i.e., ‘dominance’ and ‘competence’) and communality (i.e., ‘morality’ and ‘sociability’; e.g., Abele et al., 2016) with implications for understanding gender inequality in the workplace (e.g., Prati et al., 2019). Extending this research and contributing to the facial first impressions literature, we examined how these facets of agency and communality when inferred from White men’s and women’s faces, along with attractiveness, influence their leadership suitability. In three studies in the United Kingdom (total N = 424), using student and working samples and two managerial descriptions, we found an unexpected pattern of results, supported by an internal meta-analysis: attractiveness and competence were the most important predictors of hirability for all candidates. For women, dominance was the next most important predictor; for men, morality and sociability were more important than dominance. Moreover, morality and sociability were more important in evaluating men than women, while dominance was more important in evaluating women than men. Findings are discussed in terms of a ‘deficit bias’, whereby the qualities women and men are considered to lack – dominance for women, morality, and sociability for men – may be given more weight when evaluating their leadership suitability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)644-671
Number of pages28
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Volume61
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2022

Keywords

  • deficit bias
  • facial first impressions
  • gender stereotypes
  • leadership selection

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