Do Ladies Have to “Man Up” to Get Hired?

If you’re looking for a new job (or are among the 5.7 percent of American women trying to climb out of unemployment), you’ve probably heard horror stories about how applying for jobs in male-dominated fields or acting too aggressive during the hiring process can nix your chances of landing a position. But new research from Michigan State University revealed something surprising — women looking to get hired might want to play up their masculine traits (or hide their gender altogether) during the job hunt.

The lab experiment, whose results appear in Psychology of Women Quarterly, pitted 674 women and men against one another for a hypothetical job hunt in an engineering field. Turns out that women who described themselves as having “masculine” traits (independence, assertiveness and a focus on achievement) were evaluated favorably more often than those with “feminine” traits (nurturing, warm and supportive) — and more often than male applicants who did not describe themselves with the same traits.

The study gets even more fascinating when contrasted with two other recent news bites. In one, a researcher in the United Kingdom found that teen girls must play down their intelligence in order to appeal to the opposite sex. In another, a group of researchers studying the effects of sexual harassment on women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields admit they feared publishing their results because of potential backlash faced by female respondents.

If you add up the evidence, things start to get mighty confusing. Should women play dumb until they enter an interview, where they “man up” before silencing themselves again in their field? Do teenage boys who prefer less intelligent girls turn into hiring managers who want to bring people just like them on board? Does “manning up” extend to complaining about unfair treatment in the workplace? Why has the term “man up,” which places a spotlight on traditionally “masculine” behaviors (and derides those who are unable to answer its call) become so prevalent in recent years? What’s the best option for a woman looking for work?

The study itself has a bit of sobering advice to share: avoid acknowledging your gender at all during the job hunt. “Women seeking entry into traditionally masculine occupations may want to describe themselves in agentic terms and avoid acknowledging their gender,” says the study. It goes on to say that “…applicants’ decisions concerning how to manage their gender presentation can influence how they are evaluated.”

Whether or not you attempt to hide your gender during the job hunt, at least vet your sources before taking any job-seeking advice. While Anne Marie Ryan, a co-author of the study, admits that the findings (and findings from other research on age discrimination) point the finger at discriminatory screening practices, she also suggest that job hunters equip themselves with a grain of salt before they enter the fray. “There’s a lot of advice out there for applicants to help combat this type of bias,” says Ryan; “…our research is aimed at figuring out what kind of advice is beneficial and what kind of advice may harm you.”


Charlie Rush
Charlene Rush2 years ago

Besides the fact that men have influenced many women into believing that being a 'f'eminist' is something to avoid, may I remind them of Webster's definition:


What person in their right mind, would disagree with that?
_Feminism_ is the radical notion that women are people.

It doesn't matter what we do, as women, it is about the male person not being afraid of women in high positions.
Remember ladies, only insecure men are fearful of women.

Vicky P.
Vicky P2 years ago


Hent Catalina-Maria


Donnaa D.
donnaa d2 years ago


Rhonda B.
Rhonda B2 years ago


Anne F.
Anne F2 years ago

Odd article - lab tests are not usually conducted with the general public. Yes, I've been asked if swearing in the office would bother me. No, I don't dress for an evening out when I'm going to the office or to an interview or a public meeting.

Marie W.
Marie W2 years ago

Glass ceiling still shines.

Katie S.
Katie S2 years ago

Great article

Wanda Bagram
Past Member 2 years ago

It hurt me deeply to walk into work and have my male counter parts only say ‘Good Morning. The reports are on your desk. We will all be ready for the meeting 15 minutes prior. Do you have any questions?” Then when the other women walked in the tone completely changed into a much warmer, more smiles and far less defensive tone with them.

Wanda Bagram
Past Member 2 years ago

Barbara S.- If I could give you 100 Green stars I would. I so wish your wisdom would have been taught to me in college, I had to learn that the hard way and it cost me. Barbara S, I truly have to say that short paragraph you posted taught more wisdom than 2 of my Professors did in one semester about being a Woman in a Male dominated Industry. My very first mistake was costly and trust around me was so ‘egg shell’ I had to request a transfer, and looking back it was actually more my fault than anything else. Long story short I was assigned to a Male dominant Unit with a handful of strong women that were accept and respected. On my 3rd day a male operative had just gotten back in from months of being in the field and was introduced to me, he quickly did the ‘Grip’ and introduced himself to me. The Grip is a very bonding clasp of the right hands to the fore-arm, pulling in close and one arm hug with the left arm. The Grip is only given to members of that unit whom have been accepted as brethren, so it was his way of accepting me as a sister as they also greeted the other women in the same manner, but I did not know that and I quickly ran off and reported the incident as an unwanted advance. After the investigation it was all egg shells, the other women in the unit were upset with me as I did not bother to ask them what the Grip was about before I ran off and made a huge deal about it, I was isolated from just about everybody as being too thin skinned. It hurt