Beauty over brains? Men, but not women, judged on looks for corporate director roles

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Men are judged on their facial appearance in corporate director elections, but women are not, according to new research.

The researchers calculated an appearance score for corporate director candidates based on rankings from anonymous raters. These raters were asked to score candidates between 1 and 5 for their beauty, perceived competence, trustworthiness, likability and intelligence after seeing only a photograph of them. The researchers then matched these average ratings with the percentage of voters who either abstained or voted against directors in their elections and re-elections.

Unconscious visual bias

While beauty had no impact, the study revealed that the perceived competence, trustworthiness, likability and intelligence inferred by a corporate director’s facial appearance had a direct effect on the decision of voters. Directors who ranked highly for these perceived character traits received more votes in their favour.

However, this was only true for male candidates. Female candidates’ beauty or other perceived character traits had absolutely no effect on the number of votes that they received.

>See also: Are women better suited for leadership than men?

Gender diversity more appealing

Philipp Geiler, who conducted the research, said: “The findings of this study offer a different opinion to what was already generally thought – that facial beauty has an effect in company director elections. This study disproves this. It’s actually the perceived characteristics of a male corporate director that have an influence on the likelihood of them being voted for and are therefore important traits for a male corporate director to have.

But, when it comes to female corporate directors, none of these factors appear to have an influence – in fact, women receive very little voting dissent at all, which is likely due to top female directors still being in short supply, and companies and shareholders recognising the benefits of gender diversity at board level.”

The results show that an increase in the measure of appearance by one standard deviation is associated with a decrease in voting dissent for male corporate directors. In fact, an increase by one standard deviation is equivalent to a decline in the likelihood of negative votes by an average of 26%. It proves that the physical appearance of a corporate director, and not just their professional background, education or corporate results, has a staggering impact in elections.

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