top of page

As women, we must choose success or likeability.

Bold statement, I know. Unfortunately, the studies show it to be true. The more successful a man is, the more popular and 'liked' he becomes. The more successful a woman is, the less popular she becomes. Have you felt this as a female leader? Or observed this, regardless of your gender?

The Howard Vs. Heidi Study* explains:

Heidi Roizen was a successful Silicon Valley venture capitalist who became the subject of a case study at Columbia Business School. Professor Frank Flynn, presented half his class with the case study with Heidi’s name on it, and gave half the class the same case study with her name changed to “Howard”. ⁠

The students rated “Howard” and Heidi, equally competent (encouraging, considering they are the same person), but the students liked Howard, but not Heidi. Specifically, they felt Heidi was significantly less likable and worthy of being hired than Howard and perceived her as more “selfish” than Howard. They thought Howard would be a 'great guy', but they wouldn't trust Heidi. ⁠Perhaps she was in it for the wrong reasons. Sheryl Sandberg talks a lot about this study in her book, Lean In.

Why is this? And have you ever been guilty of not trusting a successful woman, when you wouldn't question a man's motives in the same position?

Research suggests that we are still not used to seeing women in leadership positions. As of February 2021, we have only 21 elected women as head of state or government out of 193 recognised nations**. We clearly need more women in leadership positions. But how do we do this? It doesn't happen overnight, but at the rate we are going, it will be another 130 years before we see a marked change.

Well, step one is acknowledging that this is still a reality. Real-time statistics from the Australian Institute of Company Directors reveals that only 32.6% of directors in the ASX 200 are women.

Secondly, change needs to start at a young age. We need little girls to stop being called "bossy" in the playground when little boys are not. We need to show our girls that they can be whatever they dream of becoming, and be mindful of the role-models they are looking up to. We need to show our children that roles within the household aren't defined by gender.

We need real flexibility and creativity in the workplace, not just token gestures, so that women are encouraged to build their careers and have a family, should they choose to. Paid parental leave, support and flexibility for fathers or other caregivers so that the responsibility doesn't always rely on the mother. The list goes on.

We have come a long way, but boy (pardon the pun), we still have a long way to go.

*Leadership Psychology Institute, Howard Vs. Heidi Study


201 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page