A New Study Finds Female Flirters Advance In The Workplace.

The signs a woman is flirting.  Playing with her hair.  Batting her eyelashes one too many times.  Apparently, those behaviors can aid women’s advancement in the workplace…so says a recent study by the University of California-Berkeley.  In the study…more than 70 graduate business students examined how trained women negotiate.  And whether they believe flirting is valuable in the bargaining process.  Participants watched videos of corporate negotiations for the study.  They measured ten characteristics that include: honesty, pleasantness, and friendliness.  The study found that while the office vixens were deemed more likeable…their negotiation tactics were ineffective.   They were also viewed as less authentic and less genuine than women who don’t turn on feminine charm.

As an academic researcher who studies behaviors in the workplace…I applaud the efforts of the analysts who initiated the study.  As a woman, professional and OD Practitioner…I find the study extremely disappointing.  It doesn’t cast working women in a positive light.  It implies that women don’t elevate in their careers because of merit, education, diligence and hard work.  Rather, women get ahead by being seductive.

In television…I hosted a show that celebrated the professional accolades of women.  I dubbed the show “Trailblazers” as the women were pioneers in their fields.  Many of them worked and excelled in careers dominated by men.  They were recognized leaders in their fields.  Architecture.  Engineering.  Business Management.  Public Safety.  Those “Trailbazers” carried an extra burden to break barriers and gender stereotypes.  And that required a great amount of finesse especially as it relates to navigating through the old boys club.

In organizational development…I interviewed seven women for my master’s thesis.  The study examined the significance of the MBA in the careers of African American women.  The MBAs worked in finance and international business.  We spent hours discussing the seriousness of women in business, education, the glass ceiling, getting ahead, professionalism, perception, and sponsorship.  These MBAs got ahead in their careers because of education, determination, perseverance, morals and values.  Not by flirting.

…Very disheartening study.  Enough of my thoughts.  What do you think?

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4 replies

  1. The study is disheartening for both women and men in the workplace. In order for flirting to be a key to female advancement, that means the higher ups advancing them are most likely males who are more interested in getting on the good side of the office vixen instead of giving hard workers the attention they are due. Sad sad story all around

    • You definitely raised a valid point. The study does have negative implications for men in the workplace as well. This is a huge issue for organizations. We must think of how to better promote ethical behavior in the workplace. Thank you so kindly for commenting on this post!

  2. I agree that this is disheartening. What is worst for me is that I find myself doing it to avoid conflict. I am one of few women in my field in my community, and I can’t tell you how many inappropriate comments and behaviors I have to deal with in professional settings. Men have kissed my hand, asked me to run away with them, etc. The hard part is that if I responded the way I wanted to, “I don’t appreciate that. Please don’t do/say that,” I risk hurting my chances of advancing in this community and I also run the risk of hurting the company I represent.

    • Cecilia,

      This sounds like a very uncomfortable situation. Perhaps, you should speak with a manager at your company about the inappropriate comments. You certainly don’t want to misrepresent your company, but shouldn’t be subjected to this treatment by clients either.

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