Friday, September 18, 2015

Hair penalties: The negative influence of Afrocentric hair on ratings of Black women’s dominance and professionalism

Women are penalized if they do not behave in a stereotype-congruent manner (,; ). For example, because women are not expected to be agentic they incur an “agency penalty” for expressing anger, dominance or assertiveness (; , ; ; ; ; ). Yet, all women are not equally penalized (). We make a novel contribution by examining how both White and Black evaluators respond to displays of Black women’s dominance, in this case, whether Black women choose to wear Afrocentric or Eurocentric hairstyles.

We conducted three experimental studies to examine the influence of target hairstyle and participant race on ratings of the target’s professionalism (Studies 1, 2, and 3) and dominance (Study 2). Study 1 was an online experimental study with 200 participants (112 females, 87 males, 1 missing gender; 160 Whites, 19 Blacks, 11 Latinos, 7 Asian Americans and 3 who identify as “other”; Mage = 35.5,SD = 11.4). Study 2 was an online experimental study with 510 participants (276 women, 234 males; 256 Blacks, 254 Whites; Mage = 41.25 years, SD = 12.21). Study 3 was an online experimental study with 291 participants (141 Blacks, 150 Whites, Mage = 47.5 years, SD = 11.66).

Black, as compared to White, evaluators gave higher agency penalties to Black employment candidates when they donned Afrocentric versus Eurocentric hair, rating them as more dominant and less professional.

The present research illustrates the significance of considering both target and evaluator race when examining the influence of agency, and specifically dominance, on ratings of professionalism.

Below:  Images used in studies

Read more at:

By: Tina R. Opie1,* and Katherine W. Phillips2

1Management Division, Babson College, Babson Park, MA, USA
2Management Division, Columbia Business School, New York, NY, USA

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