Secret of successful women is femininity: Those with aggressive approach less likely to win promotion

Women who want to succeed at work should resist the temptation to act like men, scientists said yesterday.

Their studies show that women who take an aggressive approach are often less likely to get ahead than those who exhibit more feminine traits.

If however, they try to conform, promotion comes their way.

Stepping stone: Studies show that assertive women are often less likely to get ahead at work than those who exhibit more feminine traits

The findings, which will dismay feminists, suggest the best way for a woman to succeed in a man’s world is to act like a lady.

They tally with past research that showed women oozing with self-confidence, assertiveness and other characteristics linked with successful management can be side-lined at work in favour of meeker types.

It is thought that while such traits are highly-prized in men, go-getting women are penalised for not being feminine enough and are seen as less likeable.

The study asked 80 young men and women about their personality while they studied for a master’s degree in business administration.

Eight years later, the researchers got back in touch to find out how their careers were progressing and found that ‘macho’ women who took an aggressive approach had been promoted less than more feminine sorts.

The bossy women who made a conscious effort not to appear too threatening by ‘self-monitoring’ their behaviour had done better than those who had carried on regardless.

Some had been promoted five times, others just once or twice, a journal published by the British Psychological Society reports. Self-awareness – or the lack of it – did not affect the fledgling careers of men, the research from George Mason University in Virginia found.

A previous U.S. study found that pushy women job applicants were the least likely candidates to be employed.

Dr Olivia O’Neill, who carried out the latest piece of research, advises assertive women to pick and choose when to be forceful.

She said: ‘If they are seen to behave in a stereotypically male way, they may damage their chances of promotion, even if these traits are synonymous with successful managers.’

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