Women more Emotional and Men more Aggressive? When Stereotypes don't Work

Jared Curhan of MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Jennifer Overbeck of the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business conducted a study to see how men and women handle negotiations. What they were looking for was whether participants would behave as the stereotypes would have us believe, namely that the women would concentrate more on fostering the relationship and the men would be more assertive. During the simulated negotiations, the participants were given an incentive for creating a positive impression on their negotiation counterparts. The results showed that, contrary to gender stereotypes, women behaved more aggressively, while the men were more appeasing. The researchers speculate that in an effort to show themselves in a more positive light, men and women go counter to what they feel their perceived weakness may be.

Unfortunately, this strategy appears to work better for men than for women. The negotiaters counterparts rated women more negatively for being more assertive, while men were seen in a more positive light for being more conciliatory. It appears that women continue to struggle with the impression that they lack assertiveness, while at the same time being seen in a negative light when they show their assertiveness.

Tell us about your experiences in the world of business. If you're a man, do you have to overcompensate to avoid being seen as too aggressive? If you're a women, do you feel caught between being either not tough enough or too tough?

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