This CEO dyes her hair brown to be taken seriously

To be taken seriously at work by people in positions of power, women sometimes feel like they have to go to extreme lengths to conceal and modify their appearance — all to level the playing field in male-dominated industries. On Monday, Eileen Carey, the Silicon Valley CEO of Glassbreakers, shared one such story, telling the BBC that she dyes her blonde hair brunette and wears glasses, having received negative feedback about her looks.

“I was told for this raise [of funds], that it would be to my benefit to dye my hair brown because there was a stronger pattern recognition of brunette women CEOs,” she told the BBC, citing how business colleagues would compare her to Elizabeth Holmes, a blonde CEO whose failed blood-testing company is hemorrhaging millions to settle lawsuits. Carey noted that the first time she received this advice was from a woman in venture capital.

Blondes considered less competent at work in survey

Research actually finds that there’s a stronger pattern recognition with blonde, not brunette women, in corporate leadership positions. Almost half of female CEOs at S&P 500 companies are blonde, according to a hair-color stereotyping study. But perhaps the business contacts giving this advice to Carey are alluding to a stereotype of blondes being more likable and less competent than brunettes — that’s a leadership myth that continues to persist in the minds of some men. In a study where men were shown the same women with different-colored hair, men said that the blonde versions of the same women were less competent and independent, yet the blonde versions were perceived to be more warm and attractive.

Dr. Jennifer Berdahl, one of the researchers in this study, called this bias the “Glinda-the-Good-Witch effect,” where “Barbie can be CEO as long as she is young and/or docile” because “blonde women are not only assumed to be younger than their darker haired counterparts, but are also judged to be less independent-minded and less willing take a stand than other women and than men.”

Berdahl’s analysis aligns with Carey’s personal experience. “Being a brunette helps me to look a bit older and I needed that, I felt, in order to be taken seriously,” Carey said, citing examples of being more likely to be flirted with at work when she had blonde hair. “For me to be successful in this [tech industry] space, I’d like to draw as little attention as possible, especially in any sort of sexual way,” she said.

The most flattering blonde hair colors for every skin tone
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The most flattering blonde hair colors for every skin tone


Gwen Stefani's signature platinum hue is "gorgeous with an edge," says colorist Marie Robinson. It's also tailor-made for the pop star's fair skin, colorist Rita Hazan adds, because the shade is so close to her complexion. That said, when your skin is this fair, take a cue from Stefani and try rocking one of her other trademarks: red lips. "Bright lips ensure that your facial features don't get lost," says Robinson.

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Margot Robbie may have shocked the world when she showed up at the Oscars as a brunette, but who can forget her equally striking blonde? "The shade works perfectly with her light eyes and light skin," says Hazan. The secret, she adds, is making sure to ask your colorist for Robbie's multidimensional mix of butter, gold, and honey. "This makes the color look natural—not bleached-out or overprocessed," she says.


The sexy star always seems to get it right, and her hair color is no exception. "Scarlett [Johansson]'s color is rich and warm, but still subtle," says Hazan. "It has depth—it's not flat or drabby—and it's perfect for her skin tone because it isn't too red or too orange." To copy the look, ask your colorist for a dark blonde base with cool-toned highlights on the midlength and ends.

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Kate Bosworth may have just gone red a hot second ago, but how beautiful was her lighter hair? Robinson says the brownish-blonde shade works because of its "natural-looking warm roots and cascading buttery highlights." When roots are tinted slightly darker like this, she says, they provide "richness and contrast," helping the color blend gracefully with her fair skin. To re-create it, ask for a "caramel base with lighter blonde tones through the midlength and ends, and pale highlights around the face," says Robinson. "This will make the color look very natural."


If you've ever doubted that Asians could pull off blonde, you've never seen this stunning example. The "modern, pale platinum" shade works on model Soo Joo Park, says Hazan, because it's balanced out by the tinge of yellow in her skin tone. It's a bold look, to be sure, but if you're ready to try it, Hazan recommends asking your colorist for an "allover ashy blonde with a slight golden or butter tone."

Golden Ombré

Confession: We have a major hair crush on Blake Lively—both for those beachy waves and for that beachy color. "Her sophisticated, golden-strawberry blonde has an extremely subtle ombré," says Hazan. "You don't get that harsh dark-to-light, so it's a more modern version of an ombré." To get it, ask your colorist to add varying tones of honey highlights through the midlengths of your hair on top of a light brown base, keeping the ends ever-so-slightly lighter.


Kim Kardashian may now be back to her trademark raven, but we're still loving that blonde phase. What made it work? The fact that the reality star didn't stray too far from, well, reality, holding on to a substantial stretch of the dark roots she was born with. "This is the proper way to do this," says Hazan. If you want to go similarly honey blonde, Robinson recommends asking your colorist to leave your dark roots intact. "That way, you'll still have depth next to the skin," she says.


Is it any surprise that Queen Beyoncé totally rules as a blonde? "Her baby blonde shade works because of the dark base," says Hazan. "The darkness balances the blonde." To get the look, ask your colorist for "cream and butter highlights," says Robinson. Another tip when becoming this blonde: Go slowly. Hazan suggests lightening little by little over three or four appointments, so that your hair doesn't turn too orange or red in the process.


Talk about a golden girl: Ciara's stunning honey-ish hue looks "natural and soft," says Hazan. To steal it for yourself, leave your roots dark (or ask your colorist to give you a dark brown base), then pile on several layers of highlights. "You want some of them golden beige and some slightly lighter ones mixed in on top," says Robinson. "Keeping the brown roots next to your skin ensures that you don't become washed-out."


Female tech CEOs face subjective criticism like this all the time

The margin for error in any venture-capital-backed startup is razor-thin. But female entrepreneurs leading startups face additional hurdles from investors who question their ability and judgment and are less likely to look like them. In the U.S., women only make up an estimated 7% of all venture capitalists in charge of deciding if your startup will get the funds it needs to survive another day. A 2017 field study of venture capitalist interactions between male and female entrepreneurs found that female entrepreneurs were more likely to get asked how they would not lose while male entrepreneurs were asked how they would win. That difference in the framing of ideas led to female entrepreneurs getting less funding from investors.

A recent experiment proved that identifying as a man can make all the difference in startup success. In a recent Fast Company article, Witchsy co-founders Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer said they noticed that clients were using a condescending tone of “Okay, girls . . .” and weren’t responding to emails in a timely manner. So they decided to see if adding a fictional male co-founder would make a difference. It did. Once Gazin and Dwyer introduced clients to a fictional male co-founder named “Keith Mann,” client interactions became much more productive.

“It would take me days to get a response, but Keith could not only get a response and a status update, but also be asked if he wanted anything else or if there was anything else that Keith needed help with,” Dwyer said.

Carey and the Witchsy co-founders took actions to take back control of factors outside of their control, and succeeded. But having to regulate one’s appearance for the sake of judgmental investors shows how limiting and insular the ideal startup leader is perceived to be.

This article This CEO dyes her hair brown to be taken seriously appeared first on Ladders.

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