March 12th, 2013
10:57 PM ET

How are powerful women perceived?

In her new book "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead," Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says women may be preventing their own rise to the top in their respective fields. She also says there are factors holding women back that cannot be controlled, like perception.

Sandberg cites a study conducted 10 years ago at NYU Stern school of business that tested how students perceive powerful women and men differently. AC360° went back to NYU to rerun the experiment and see what, if anything, has changed in the past decade.

In the original test, students reviewed a case study of a real female entrepreneur. Half read her story, and the other half read the same text with one difference – Heidi Roizen's name was changed to Howard.

As Sandberg explained in a TED Talk, both Heidi and Howard were regarded as equally competent, but their personalities were not viewed as similar. Heidi was seen negatively as political and out for herself.

In AC360's recreation of the test, students were asked if they liked and trusted the executive they read about, and if they would want to work for that person. Catherine and Martin have identical backgrounds, but they were not considered equals in each of those categories. Watch Anderson's report to see the results of the recent experiment.

Watch Sellers: Women view power horizontally

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Filed under: Women's Issues
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Gail

    I have to agree with Sheryl Sandberg when she says “women may be preventing their own rise to the top in their respective fields… (and that) there are factors holding women back that cannot be controlled, like perception.” I am a student at Drury University and we have discussed feminist issues in communication. It is interesting how perception will change the outcome of what someone reads (as in your experiment). In our text Ethics in Human Communication by Johannesen, Valde, and Whedbee the authors back up your claim and state that even though men and women are both important human beings that "societal barriers have prevented women from being perceived and treated as valued person of equal worth with men." (Pg. 203) I know we have come a long way from even our grandmother’s time; but we as humans still have a long way to continue to grow to see everyone on an equal playing field. There are women who are very successful and that are great role models helping to pave the way for a more feminist equality, but there are many barriers women still have to get through.

    Johannesen, R. L., Valde, K. S., & Whedbee, K. E. (2008). Ethics in Human Communication. Long Grove: Waveland Press, Inc.

    March 13, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
  2. Tom

    In two of the questions the women comes out on top, (‘likability’ and ‘would you work for this person’). Yet the narrator says this is a sign of progress. Why??? While we can say the 'Likability' (8.0 vs 7.6) is about even, the 'work for' comes in at 83% vs 65%. Shouldn't this signify discrimination against the man, as much as the 'trust' question is discrimination against a woman?

    Replacing one gender bias by flipping the person that is discriminated against isn’t progress.

    March 13, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
  3. Linda Parks

    As a women in the trades field in the early 80's in northern Canada . I got a job driving snow plow, I was 1 of 50 applicants ,all others men, I spent the first year, pulling my weight, always ready to help.and fended off , men with stay at home statements.extra bad jobs by foreman ,not being believed when I advised my snow plow truck had problems. but by the end of the first year, I was accepted,and welcomed .yes I had to work twice as hard, put up with unbelievable assignments,and put through the wringer. my middle daughter also went into the trades field, as a Diesel mechanic, right out of high school. . we were part of the women in trades ,advisory group. welcoming young women when they were contemplating going into the trades fields. we challenged the glass ceiling, and broke through.

    March 13, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
  4. Ray

    I'd hate to work for the woman who stepped on the guy who dared to say "hot chick." No sense of humor, full of self-importance, chip on her shoulder, has a "we are entitled" attitude, Chief Enforcer of the Thought Police. She might push her way to the top one day, but everyone will be glad to see her fall - not because she's a woman, but because they can't stand her.

    March 13, 2013 at 2:29 am |
  5. Ivo Šandor

    For the question about trustworthiness, what was the breakdown by gender of respondent? I have several female friends who refuse to go to a female doctor for reasons that are hard for me to fathom, but it seems common and maybe this is for the same reason?

    March 12, 2013 at 11:52 pm |

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