Can Makeup Affect a Woman’s Perceived Leadership Skills?
Medically reviewed by Paul Sietes, MD.
Women who wear a lot of makeup are less likely to be perceived as having strong leadership qualities, according to a new UK study published in the journal Perception.
The study adds a new dimension to this area of research, as it comes after previous findings showing that women who wear more makeup are seen as more dominant. This suggests that the topic is much more complex than simply wearing makeup or not wearing makeup.
For the new study, participants were asked to look at a series of images featuring the same woman both without makeup as well as with makeup which had been applied for a “social night out.” Computer software was used to manipulate the faces as well as the amount of makeup on the face images.
Each participant then completed a face perception task in which they rated sixteen face-pairs, indicating how much better a leader they felt their chosen face to be compared to the other face.
The findings suggest that the amount of makeup a woman is wearing can have a negative impact on others’ perceptions of her leadership abilities. In fact, it was found that both men and women evaluated women more negatively as a leader if the image suggested she was wearing a lot of makeup.
“This research follows previous work in this area, which suggests that wearing makeup enhances how dominant a woman looks,” said study leader Dr. Christopher Watkins from the Division of Psychology at Abertay University in Scotland.
“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 benefiting how we evaluate her in a leadership role. This work is a good example of the diverse and interesting research ongoing within the Division of Psychology.”
The study was carried out by Abertay graduates Esther James and Shauny Jenkins and used a measurement scale common in face perception research, which calculates the first-impressions of the participant group as a whole, working out an average verdict.
Watkins has conducted previous high-profile studies including work looking at how women remember the faces of potential love rivals and the role of traits related to dominance in our choice of allies, colleagues, and friends.