Perceptions of Warmth and Competency of Women of Color in Leadership

Open Access
Aguilar, Melissa
Area of Honors:
Letters, Arts, and Sciences (Abington)
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Michael Jason Bernstein, Thesis Supervisor
  • Carla Chamberlin Quinlisk, Honors Advisor
  • Intersectionality
  • Glass Ceiling
  • Microaggression
Women have slowly risen as leaders in recent years but many believe the rise to the top is still too slow and the glass ceiling seems more realistic now than ever. For women of color, that rise to the top is much slower and the number of women in leadership positions currently is infinitesimal. The researchers wanted to know why this phenomenon occurs and are there perceptions of women of color that stop them from rising to the top even behind White women. This study investigates whether women of color in leadership positions are perceived as more or less warm and competent than White women. Participants read a supposed email from a superior to her subordinates about her displeasure with the poor work performance of the entire team. Via random assignment, participants received an email either signed from a White woman, Black woman, or Hispanic woman, and then rated their perception of the superiors’ characteristics along dimensions of warmth and competence. A 3 Target Race (Hispanic, White, Black) x 2 Trait Ratings (Warmth, Competence) mixed model ANOVA with repeated measures on the second factor revealed that all targets were rated as low on warmth relative to competence. White and Hispanic women, however, were seen as significantly more competent than Black women who were seen as significantly less competent. The findings that Hispanic women were seen as significantly more competent than Black women is worth further investigation. One thought may lead into the negative stereotypes within not only minority communities of Blacks and Hispanics/Latinos but also negative stereotypes from White groups towards Black groups and White groups towards Hispanic/Latino groups.