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Study reviews income, gender

Abi Hoverman | Friday, August 26, 2011

Nice guys ⎯ and mean girls ⎯ can actually come last in the business world, according to research from management professor Timothy Judge published earlier this month.

Judge’s paper, which studies the effects of personality and gender on income, addressed the career advantages and disadvantages of an argumentative workplace attitude.

“How we expect a woman to behave may seem primitive … but [stereotypes] still exist for a substantial part of the population,” Judge said.

Judge investigated the issue when he saw assertive and successful women like Martha Stewart receive excessive criticism while the media championed male figures like Donald Trump as “tough negotiators.”

“It made me wonder if being a tough business woman cast [Stewart] in a different light,” he said.

He also cited Hilary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign as an example of negative attention directed at women with strong personalities.

After collecting his research, Judge found a connection between aggressive workplace behavior and higher pay.

“Disagreeable people get more resources because they ask for more,” he said.

This trend results from the fact that more assertive people are more likely to ask for pay raises and job promotions, Judge said.

However, Judge said he saw a severe gender gap emerge in his research as well. While men reaped the benefits of their confrontational behavior, he said women rarely received higher pay as a result of the same actions.

“If you’re a woman, you have to be careful about how you ask and not cross the line and be called the ‘B-word,'” Judge said.

Men benefit from being disagreeable because males are generally expected to be more harsh and aggressive, Judge said.

The female stereotype, however, is a kind, cooperative, gentle and sympathetic character. Judge said challenging this stereotype leads to harsh criticism rather than praise.

“We can’t think that just because we have progressed, our instincts [about gender roles] have gone away,” Judge said.

As women assume leadership roles more regularly, Judge said this negative reception of aggressive women might evolve. However, Judge said businesses would need to develop programs now to encourage open and honest dialogue to address this double standard.

While women should be careful of the biases working against them, Judge said they should not be discouraged.

“You don’t always get what you ask for, but you rarely get what you don’t ask for,” he said. “Avoiding conflict at all costs has consequences.”