Helping the Minoritized Achieve in Academic Science

Likeability = 1/Success

One of the topics that I think affects women and many men are oblivious to it is the idea that your likeability decreases as your success increases.

Likeability (woman) ≈ 1 / Success      Eq (1)

This is not a made up. Multiple studies have shown that successful women are less liked as they gain success. Successful men, on the other hand gain in likeability, so their likeability equation is:

Likeability (men) ≈ Success    Eq (2)

It also starts fairly early. I have only just got tenure, and I already feel less liked among senior male colleagues in and out of my department. Maybe we have made progress because now you have to get tenure before it sets in, and maybe it used to set in after getting your Ph.D.? Whatever the case, the phenomena has been described numerous times online (Huffington Post, Harvard Business Review Blog), in studies (“by psychologists like Madeline Heilman at NYU, Susan Fiske at Princeton, Laurie Rudman at Rutgers, Peter Glick at Lawrence University, and Amy Cuddy at Harvard” – by Marianne Cooper), and in books, such as Lean In.

Here is the worst part about it: I don’t think there is anything you can do about it except for not care what other people think. If you are reading this and are a young woman, you may think that it does not apply to you because you are not aggressive, bitchy, rude, pushy, bossy, or whatever negative label you want to give the WomenInCharge. Here is the thing. It has nothing to do with being nice or bitchy. It only has to do with your success. (Notice that bitchy does not enter the equation above.)

So, if you want to be successful, and you achieve that goal, you will probably be disliked. The next post will be a nice commentary from the nicest WomanOfScience I know. She is not bitchy, but she is successful. I will let her tell her story, and it might change your mind.

Have something to add? Please comment or guest post! I would love to have your opinions and anecdotes about this plague on successful women.


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