In the workplace, women only gain influence when they exhibit 'feminine' behaviours
Source: INSEAD , Author: Posted by BI-ME staff
Posted: Tue August 8, 2017 7:22 pm

UAE.  Exuding self-confidence is not equally rewarded for men and women in the workplace, according to a new research paper by Natalia Karelaia, INSEAD Associate Professor of Decision Sciences.

In the study, Karelaia analysed the judgments that colleagues made regarding the self-confidence and influence of 236 highly skilled computer engineers at a multinational software company. Examining the job performance, “prosocial orientation”, i.e. their level of concern for others’ welfare at work, self-confidence and organisational influence, Karelaia found major differences in how self-confidence translates into influence for men and women.

For men in the study, there were direct correlations between their performance evaluations, perceived self-confidence and organisational influence. For example, the more self-confident they were, the more influence they wielded. For women, however, despite achieving good job performance and having high self-confidence, they were only considered influential when they exhibited “nurturing” behaviour. Women who shun nurturing behaviour are denied perceived influence by their supervisors.

“Sadly, women in historically masculine professions are not yet judged by gender-neutral standards”, Karelaia said. “Often, their excellence is recognised only if they appease gender stereotypes.”

Karelaia’s paper builds on her earlier research that found women often tend to rate their abilities accurately, while men are overconfident about theirs. One argument emerging from this research is that women are simply less confident than men and that hurts their chances of promotion. Her latest paper shows, however, that even having confidence in their abilities is not enough. It seems therefore, that high-performing women cannot rely solely on self-confidence to propel them up the ranks.

A simplistic implication of the research is that men and women need to behave differently to progress in their careers: men needn’t worry about being prosocial but women should invest time in helping others to be perceived as influential. But Karelaia offers practical implications to relieve women of the one-sided obligation to perform emotional labour.

“For companies that care about gender equality, if being a good organisational citizen and helping others is a requirement, it should be so for men and women equally.” Secondly, “organisations should be willing to question the assumptions of meritocracy. It is obvious that women are not accepted on their merits alone, so supervisors should take these findings into account when appraising the performance of their female staff.”

Her latest paper, “Appearing self-confident and getting credit for it: Why it may be easier for men than women to gain influence at work” has been accepted for publication at Human Resource Management, and was previously presented at the Academy of Management annual meeting.

About INSEAD, The Business School for the World
As one of the world's leading and largest graduate business schools, INSEAD brings together people, cultures and ideas to change lives and to transform organisations. A global perspective and cultural diversity are reflected in all aspects of our research and teaching.

With campuses in Europe (France), Asia (Singapore) and the Middle East (Abu Dhabi), INSEAD's business education and research spans three continents. The school's 145 renowned Faculty members from 40 countries inspire more than 1,400 degree participants annually in its MBA, Executive MBA, Executive Master in Finance, Executive Master in Consulting and Coaching for Change and PhD programmes. In addition, more than 11,000 executives participate in INSEAD's executive education programmes each year.

In addition to INSEAD's programmes on its three campuses, INSEAD participates in academic partnerships with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia & San Francisco); the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University near Chicago; the Johns Hopkins University/SAIS in Washington DC and the Teachers College at Columbia University in New York; and MIT Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In Asia, INSEAD partners with School of Economics and Management at Tsinghua University in Beijing, and China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai. INSEAD is a founding member in the multidisciplinary Sorbonne University created in 2012, and also partners with Fundação Dom Cabral in Brazil.

INSEAD became a pioneer of international business education with the graduation of the first MBA class on the Fontainebleau campus in Europe in 1960. In 2000, INSEAD opened its Asia campus in Singapore. And in 2007 the school began an association in the Middle East, officially opening the Abu Dhabi campus in 2010.

The exceptional alumni network, comprised of more than 53,000 alumni living in 170 countries and representing 159 nationalities, crosses cultures and borders to bring fresh global perspectives to today’s most challenging issues.

Around the world and over the decades, INSEAD continues to conduct cutting edge research and to innovate across all its programmes to provide business leaders with the knowledge and sensitivity to operate anywhere. These core values have enabled INSEAD to become truly "The Business School for the World".

INSEAD’s MBA programme is ranked #1 by the Financial Times in 2016 and 2017. 

More information about INSEAD can be found at

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