Business of Men

Feminine faces are seen as bad negotiators


Our faces play a large part in how others perceive and deal with us on a daily basis. Right or wrong, people judge our faces in terms of whether we are trustworthy, pleasant, tough or soft. And a recent US study has revealed feminine features are ‘read’ as belonging to poor negotiators who will be soft when a deal is being hammered out.

In the study, conducted by researchers at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, it has been shown that “feminine features”, for both men and women, are seen as being a disadvantage when it comes to face-to-face negotiations.

In the study, participants were shown photos of men and women whose faces had been altered to look more masculine or feminine and were asked which of the two they think they would get a better deal with in a face-to-face negotiation. Researchers found the participants “…were three times as likely to choose a man with a feminine face as an opponent, and about twice as likely to choose a womanly woman”.

But what exactly does this mean for women in the business world?

Now, it has to be made clear, that the study is a look on how the way someone’s “feminine features” (man or women) affects negotiations and not the hard work that goes into being a successful businessperson.

Findings in the study, according to co-author and PHD candidate Eric Gladstone, is seems are not all bad for women in business as Gladstone suggested that, “women could turn the bias against femininity into an advantage. The perception that women are bad negotiators made people more comfortable engaging with them”.

But can this translate to women gaining the advantage and making it work for them? Quite easily it seems, as Gladstone also suggested that women can gain the advantage in negotiations because their feminine looks make them more trusted and “…that even if women win only half the time, they still might end up with more wins overall than a man”.

While this study may seem like it is being negative towards women, the way they look and whether or not they should be in the business world at all, that’s not entirely the case. The study is about perceptions of how looks can help or hinder negotiations.

If you have a feminine face, you actually have an advantage if people mistakenly think you will be a weak negotiator. Use their misconceptions to your benefit.


About Rowena Nagy

Rowena Nagy is a Journalist at The Business Woman Media. A graduate in Journalism, Media and Communications, she is passionate about in writing, travel journalism, video journalism and Public Relations.