Research explains why half the female CEOs of S&P 500 companies are blonde.
I wish this were a joke, but it isn't.
If you want to be a successful woman, you can have any hair color you like. But if you crave a leadership position, such as elected office, CEO of a large company, or head of a prestigious organization, you should dye your hair blonde if it isn't that color already.
Don't believe me? Statistics don't lie. Only 2 percent of the world's population has naturally blond hair. If you narrow your sample to white people in the United States, that percentage goes up, but only to 5 percent. But look at women in leadership positions and you'll see a lot of golden tresses. More than a third of female senators--35 percent--are blonde. And though the sample size for female CEOs of S&P 500 companies is admittedly small, 48 percent--nearly half--are blonde.
These statistics come from research by Jennifer Berdahl and Natalya Alonso, professors at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business, who note that a disproportionate number of female university presidents are blonde as well. In fact, Berdahl writes in her blog, "This first became obvious to me at a conference at the Harvard Business School where the female speakers were mostly blonde."
Think of the women leaders who've smashed the glass ceiling in recent years. The first female Supreme Court justice? Sandra Day O'Connor. The first female presidential nominee of a major party? Hillary Clinton. It goes without saying that most of these women were not born blonde, but that doesn't seem to matter. No one in their right mind could have thought Geraldine Ferraro--the daughter of two Italian immigrants--could be a natural blonde, but she was not only a senator but also the first female vice presidential nominee of a major party.
What's going on here? Racial bias is part of the explanation--white people hold a disproportionate percentage of leadership roles when compared to the population in general. There's likely some youth bias as well, since many people are blond as children but have darker hair later in life. But it's noteworthy that this strong preference for blond hair doesn't extend to male leaders. For example, only 2 percent of male CEOs in the S&P 500 are blond. Nor does it extend to successful women in non-leadership roles--except, obviously, in entertainment.
What's fascinating is that we live in a society that is constantly telling us that blonde women are more attractive and friendlier, but less intelligent or competent than everyone else. We've received this message in a steady barrage of Blondie cartoons, Marilyn Monroe movies, and dumb blonde jokes.
That, Berdahl and Alonso say, is precisely the point. Women in positions of great authority are often caught in a bind. If they adopt a stereotypically female style--friendly, conciliatory, and non-confrontational--they aren't seen as un-feminine, but they aren't respected as strong leaders either. If they adopt a more stereotypically male stance, being forceful and authoritative, they may be respected, but they risk being labeled as bitches or ball-busters.
Every effective leader needs to be forceful and authoritative, though, at least some of the time. And it turns out that women in leadership positions who behave that way can blunt some of the criticism by sporting blonde hair which signals that they're really soft, friendly, and not-so-smart underneath, even as they issue commands.
To test this theory, the Alonso and Berdahl conducted a study of 100 men, to gage their reactions to hair color. Asked to rate photos of blonde and brunette women on attractiveness, competence, and independence, the men thought all the women were equally attractive, but that the brunettes were more competent and independent.
RELATED: You've been cutting your hair all wrong
You've been cutting your hair all wrong
You've been cutting your hair all wrong
1) Straight and Fine
If, like supermodel Karlie Kloss, you’ve got this type of hair, Roszak recommends soft, blunt layers with a length ranging from just below the shoulders to a long bob: “The goal is to have layers that just add movement, keeping as much thickness as possible.”
Take a cue from hair goddess Blake Lively and ask your stylist for long, blended layers. Roszak’s POV: “Face-framing layers a few inches below the chin gives the hair a nice shape and is extremely low-maintenance.”
Follow Naomi Watts' lead and consider going for a short hairstyle -- like an any-length bob. Shorter lengths will make it easier to enhance your natural wavy texture with products and layers. Roszak also recommends giving bangs a go, saying, “The natural wave gives the hair the movement bangs need to look natural and not heavy.”
Style Tip: A sea-salt spray will enhance the natural bends without making your hair feel dry or weighed down.
4) Wavy and Thick
Layers are a must if your thick strands have a naturally wavy texture like Freida Pinto's -- the layers should be blended but can be shorter, about chin length all around. "Having shorter pieces around the face [highlights] the cheekbones and opens up the face, and the layers help lift and lighten [the weight of the hair] while enhancing the natural waves,” Roszak explains.
Style Tip: Because this texture can be a bit dry, Roszak recommends using a leave-in oil treatment on damp hair -- focusing on the mid-lengths and ends -- and adding a tiny bit more to dry hair to add shine, define waves and eliminate frizz.
5) Curly and Fine
Susan Sarandon is the perfect muse for women with this hair texture. Says Roszak, “Curly, fine hair is great [when it’s] cut above the shoulders with short layers to accentuate the curls and bring volume and life to the hair.”
Style Tip: For hair care, curl-enhancing shampoo and conditioner will help define curls and smooth out texture. For styling, lightweight mousse is key for curl definition and volume.
6) Curly and Thick
The biggest no-no for girls with thick, curly strands like Zoe Saldana is going too short. Hair tends to bounce up by a couple of inches after every trim, so Roszak suggests erring on the side of [longer] caution.
Style Tip: As with thick, wavy strands, curly hair will need additional nutrients to maintain shine. A nourishing hair mask, specifically formulated for curly hair, will help you lock in some much-needed moisture.
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Then they were given photos of blonde and brunette women paired with quotes such as, "My staff knows who's boss," or "I don't want there to be any ambiguity about who's in charge." Suddenly there were big differences, with the brunettes coming in for harsh criticism, while the blondes were rated much higher on warmth and attractiveness. As Berdahl told the Huffington Post, "The same woman changes her hair color from blonde to brunette, and she's seen as a bitch."
Check out 10 body language mistakes to avoid in interviews:
"If you don't, the interviewer will assume you are either insecure, don't have an appropriate answer for the question being asked, or are being deceptive. Does that mean it's true? No, but perception is everything in a job interview."
Reiman said smiling demonstrates confidence, openness, warmth, and energy.
"It also sets off the mirror neurons in your listener, instructing them to smile back. Without the smile, an individual is often seen as grim or aloof," she explained.
This may give the interviewer the impression that you're bored or uninterested in the conversation. Instead, keep your hands on the desk or table, and don't fidget.
In their book "Crazy Good Interviewing," John B. Molidor, Ph.D., and Barbara Parus suggest showing your palms during an interview — since the gesture indicates sincerity — or pressing the fingertips of your hands together to form a church steeple. which displays confidence, reports Business Insider's Shana Lebowitz.
"People don't realize that the job interview begins in the waiting room, but it does. So don't slouch in the chair in the reception area," she advised. "In order to be perceived as confident, you must sit or stand tall, with your neck elongated, ears and shoulders aligned, and chest slightly protruding."
This position changes the chemicals in our brain to make us feel stronger and more confident, and it gives the outward appearance of credibility, strength, and vitality, she explained.
Playing with your hair, touching your face, or any other kind of fidgeting can be a major distraction for your interviewer. It also demonstrates a lack of power, said Reiman.
This gesture will tell the interviewer you're not comfortable or you're closed off.
"When we touch our faces or hair, it is because we need self soothing,"Reiman explained.
Is that the message you want to send to your interviewer
A weak handshake may tell the interviewer that you're nervous, shy, and that you lack confidence, explains Colin Shaw, CEO of Beyond Philosophy, a customer experience consultancy, in a LinkedIn post.
Ideally, your handshake should be firm, but not overbearing. "The secret to a great handshake is palm-to-palm contact," Wood told Business Insider. You want to slide your hand down into the web of theirs, and make palm-to-palm contact. Lock thumbs, and apply an equal amount of pressure.
"It's okay to use your hands to illustrate a few important points," writes Lebowitz. "In fact, research suggests that staying too still can give the impression of coldness.
"But relying too much on hand gestures can be distracting, according to Molidor and Parus."
She says you should remember you're in a job interview, not a theater audition.
People tend to show their dominating personality by gripping the interviewer's hand and palming it down, but this tells the interviewer that you need to feel powerful, Reiman explained. "Instead, the handshake should be more natural: thumbs in the upward position and two to three pumps up and down."
As the applicant, you should always wait for the interviewer to extend their hand first, she added.
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Why you should dye your own hair.
Should we all be struggling against stereotypes like these? Of course we should. But if they ever go away it certainly won't be in the near future. And that's why smart women who want to be respected as leaders so often turn into blondes, Berdahl says. "If women are choosing to dye their hair blonde, there's something strategic about the choice," she explained to HuffPo. "If the package is feminine, disarming and childlike, you can get away with more assertive, independent and masculine behavior."
So go ahead--make that appointment with your hairdresser. We may want to change the world. But first we have to reach the positions that will let us do it.