When women display the necessary confidence in their skills and comfort with power, they run the risk of being regarded as 'competent but cold': the bitch, the ice queen, the iron maiden, the ballbuster, the battle axe, the dragon lady . . . The sheer number of synonyms is telling. Put bluntly, we don't like the look of self-promotion and power on a woman. In experimental studies, women who behave in an agentic fashion experience backlash: they are rated as less socially skilled, and thus less hireable for jobs that require people skills as well as competence than are men who behave in an identical fashion. And yet if women don't show confidence, ambition and competitiveness then evaluators may use gender stereotypes to fill in the gaps, and assume that these are important qualities she lacks. Thus the alternative to being competent but cold is to be regarded as 'nice but incompetent'. This catch-22 positions women who seek leadership roles on a 'tight-rope of impression management'. In an empirical investigation of this damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation for women leaders, Victoria Brescoll and Eric Uhlmann found that while expressing anger often enhances men's status and competency in the eyes of others, it can be very costly to women in terms of how they are perceived.
Rutgers University psychologist Laurie Rudman and her colleagues have recently discovered that what people find particularly objectionable in professional women are status enhancing behaviours like being aggressive, dominating and intimidating. For instance, in one study students read a letter of recommendation for an academic applying for promotion to English professor. The fictional candidate was superb, an internationally renowned and highly intelligent author and literary critic. To this information it was added either that the applicant's style of literary criticism was tactful or ruthless. And, as you have already guessed, in one version of the letter the applicant was female, in the other male. The tactful version of both candidates were equally well liked and rated equally hireable. However, the ruthless version of the male candidate was considered significantly more likeable than his female counterpart. The pitiless "Emily" was less hireable because she was disliked, and she was disliked because she was seen as more intimidating, dominant and ruthless than the identical Edward. - from Delusions of Gender