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Success and Likeability

By Jennifer R. Keup

“What a nice little girl!”

This is probably a refrain that many of us heard in our youth. Replace “nice” with “good,” “sweet,” “cute,” or “charming” and there are any number of variations to communicate this praise for young women that reinforce the idea that we should be agreeable, nonthreatening, and, most importantly, likeable. While there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these traits, the challenge arises when they become the primary character themes of our youth and ones that are reinforced through adulthood and into our professional lives as female leaders.

Because, let’s be honest, people of all genders prefer women who are likeable, non-threatening, sweet, and nice. Popular media and academic scholarship show that “high-achieving women experience social backlash because their very success – and specifically the behaviors that created that success – violates our expectations about how women are supposed to behave. Continue reading Success and Likeability

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