Race in the corner office

May 8, 2009
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Just when one hopes racial stereotypes are in retreat, along comes another study suggesting otherwise.

Now weâ??re told that black CEOs with â??baby facesâ?? fare better than black CEOs with more "mature"-looking faces when it comes to results at Fortune 500 companies.

However, the Northwestern University study showed, the opposite was true for white CEOs. Those with mature faces ran the better Fortune 500 companies.

Why? Study co-author Robert Livingston looks to long-known research showing baby-faced people are considered less threatening. In other words, study participants were more comfortable with baby-faced black CEOs because they looked more disarming.

Whatâ??s a baby face? One thatâ??s round, and has a larger forehead and full cheeks. Baby faces also have large ears, full lips and a small nose.

Is the study balderdash? Or does it reflect a subconscious racism still out there in the work place? Is there value in these studies at all?
  • This reminds me of a standup comedy bit by Jerry Seinfeld. I think it goes something like this:
    How about that seedless watermelon, huh? What an invention right? I mean, scientists are actually working on this! Other scientists devote their lives to fighting cancer, aids, heart disease and these guys are saying, 'no, I'm focusing on melon.' Sure, millions are dying needlessly but this (spits out watermelon seed), this has got to stop!

    I'd like to point out that I am NOT implying that focusing on overcoming racial issues is a waste of time. I just think there are better ways of doing it. Why aren't these researchers finding out how a person's upbringing has an impact on their tendency towards racial stereotypes? What about their exposure to certain types of media (television, music, etc.)?

    I just don't see a lot of value in knowing that baby-faced black CEOs stand a better chance at success than their mature-faced counterparts. I will grant the fact that being aware of the issue may allow us to overcome it, but past that, I just don't see it.
  • Doug,

    forget baby face over more mature face. lets say that some people are being
    judge not based on can they do the work but based on gender and skin color
    today in 2009.

    so we can't get serious issues taken care of because those who are qualified,
    smart enough, and would love the opportunity to help find solutions to these
    serious problems are not getting the chance because they are being judged on
    the color of their skin or their gender.
  • Norm,

    As you so quickly deleted my previous post, perhaps you, like so many others, are quick to assume racism. In fact, as many need to be reminded, racism is when one wants to discount, hate, and hold back all those in a particular category, as in the case of all whom have black skin.

    What I cited had nothing to do with racism but was stricly a social issue. The word ax is used in black culture instead of the word ask. It is a problem for those that run call centers, for example, to attempt to correct because it is extremely difficult to change the culture. It is a problem society deals with because of culture and it can hold people back.

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  3. Straight No Chaser

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