NAYA | “Femme Fatale Effect:” Attractive businesswomen judged as less truthful, study shows

Bias against these women is rooted in both social and evolutionary theories and is in some ways a manifestation of jealousy and fear.
by Vanessa Ghanem

29 April 2019 | 16:04

Source: by Annahar

  • by Vanessa Ghanem
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 29 April 2019 | 16:04

(AFP Photo)

BEIRUT: A recent study found that attractive businesswomen were viewed by their colleagues as less truthful, less trustworthy, and worthy of getting fired.

The research was published in the journal of Sex Roles last month by authors Leah D. Sheppard from Washington State University and Stefanie K. Johnson from the University of Colorado Boulder.

The researchers conducted a series of six studies with 1,202 participants in total. They collected photos through Google image searches using the keywords “professional women” and “professional men.” They asked the participants to rate the attractiveness level of both women and men. Participants then rated the truthfulness of men and women announcing a company's layoffs in different made-up scenarios.

The results showed that whether women were identified as senior executives, PR officers, manufacturers, or nurses; attractiveness was consistently considered as a liability for them. In other terms, “negative views of attractive women extend beyond the explanatory capability of the lack-of-fit theory,” which suggests that attractive women are perceived as more feminine and thus less fit for roles that are considered stereotypically masculine. The effect was eliminated, however, when the participants were primed to feel sexually secured.

“Attractive women are perceived as less truthful than their less attractive counterparts, and this judgment appears to be linked to sexual insecurity,” the study reported. “Lower truthfulness perceptions translate into lower levels of interpersonal trust and heightened perceptions of deservingness of termination.”

Bias against these women is rooted in both social and evolutionary theories and is in some ways a manifestation of jealousy and fear.

The study also mentioned that attractive women were perceived as less suitable for certain roles like leadership roles because they might use their positions and attractiveness to further their interests, get promotions, favorable work assignments, and more.

The researchers concluded that their findings had revealed a consistent form of discrimination that could negatively impact the careers of women.


Welcome to “Naya,” the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. Naya is devoted to women of all generations. Naya editor, Sally Farhat: [email protected]

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