Some strange and slightly disturbing research suggests that if you’re a black guy with a baby face, you might go farther in the corporate world.
“Prior research suggests that having a baby face is negatively
correlated with success among White males in high positions of
leadership. However, we explored the positive role of such
“babyfaceness” in the success of high-ranking Black executives. Two
studies revealed that Black chief executive officers (CEOs) were
significantly more baby-faced than White CEOs. Black CEOs were also
judged as being warmer than White CEOs, even though ordinary Blacks
were rated categorically as being less warm than ordinary Whites. In
addition, baby-faced Black CEOs tended to lead more prestigious
corporations and earned higher salaries than mature-faced Black CEOs;
these patterns did not emerge for White CEOs. Taken together, these
findings suggest that babyfaceness is a disarming mechanism that
facilitates the success of Black leaders by attenuating stereotypical
perceptions that Blacks are threatening. Theoretical and practical
implications for research on race, gender, and leadership are
This goes against what I’d expect from a naturalistic standpoint. For instance, among white people, White men with baby faces are considered weak leaders. I’d expect that to be that case (even though it isn’t true). We’re primates, and a strong jaw line is associated with alpha-male status in the back of our lizard-brains.
But, our cultural history has thrown that all out of whack according to this study (assuming it holds water). And I suspect it’s because white people as a group still have a hard time (subconsciously) feeling like black people are OUR people, too. That is, part of our tribal group. They have to work to get inside, and the baby face must work as a “weapon” in the arsenal. (I’m conjecturing, but bear with me.) Once inside, then he can rise as high as anyone else. But, he first has to prove himself as a “friendly”. White people don’t have to FIRST work to get inside, and THEN work to rise to the top.
I guess that’s another win for Bill Cosby, the ultimate baby-face black man to rise to the top of white peoples affection list (Cosby has had great work, it’s not his fault he was born with a baby face. But, maybe that face had something to do with why he’s so popular among white people).
I am convinced that this study is representing something that will change rather dramatically over the next 10 to 20 years. People of my generation and younger are a different breed than the Babyboomers who dominate the current CEO positions of the world.
(slight rant following, forgive me)
I could be wrong, but I’ve always felt that middle-class liberal babyboomers are subconsciously racist (primarily towards black men – they seem to be fine with black women). They wouldn’t ever admit it, because they don’t even know it. But, I think they want all black men to be like Bill Cosby. They want all black music to be Jazz or Motown. Listening to how this demographic group talks about Rap music makes me cringe (God forbid their children listen to Jay-Z. But, listening to Metallica is perfectly fine).
Maybe I’m being harsh. Who knows. But, studies like this make me raise an eyebrow.