We're all different when we're with different people, but we aren't always aware of it. Sure, sometimes you're making a conscious effort to drop fewer F-bombs around Mom, but other times it's more problematic: As a new study suggests, playing up (or down) traditionally "gendered" traits can influence your job-interview success.
The paper, published in a recent issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly, had male and female participants read a fake job ad and watch videos of actors (both men and women) "interviewing" for the job. Afterwards, the participants rated the applicants on how qualified, pleasant, friendly, and likable they seemed.
Results showed that all applicants who acknowledged their gender during the interview were rated more negatively by participants. Interestingly, though, male participants preferred female applicants who emphasized traditionally "masculine" traits (such as independence and assertiveness). Female participants, on the other hand, rated female applicants more positively when they emphasized their traditionally "feminine," or "communal" traits (such as being sensitive to others’ concerns). But, while assertiveness may help women win over men on the job market, the opposite is true on the dating market: A previous study from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin also suggested that men prefer stereotypically "nice" women on first dates.
Unfortunately, it seems like these dual (and opposing) male preferences don't stop there. Just a few weeks ago, research from Maria do Mar Pereira, PhD, a sociologist at the University of Warwick, concluded research on 14-year-olds that shows girls feel the need to “play dumb” — downplaying their abilities, pretending to be less intelligent, and withdrawing from sports — so as not to intimidate boys. Meanwhile, another study looked at the differences in language used in brochures for male and female Pennsylvania State Assembly candidates. Their results showed that female candidates' brochures were dominated by mentions of traditionally "masculine" traits. The author suggests the women felt they wouldn't be elected if they "ran as women."
So, "femininity" will get you a date and an easier time in high school, but it won't get you a job or a political position? The real issue, of course, is much larger than "manning up." Being independent and assertive is a good thing, regardless of your gender — yet so is caring about other people's feelings. Assigning each of these traits a gender is both antiquated and inaccurate, especially with so many people discarding not just gendered traits, but gender itself. Hiring discrimination based on gender was outlawed no less than 50 years ago; shouldn't gender presentation be included in that, too?