Does cleavage work at work?

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Psychology of Women Quarterly, 32 (2008), 326–335. Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Printed in the USA. Copyright C 2008 Division 35, American Psychological Association. 0361-6843/08

Peter Glick, Karyna Chrislock, Korinne Petersik, Madhuri Vijay, and Aleksandra Turek Lawrence University

We examined whethermen, but not women, would be distracted by a female sales representative’s exposed cleavage, leading to greater perceived efficacy for a weak, but not for a strong product. A community sample of 88 men and 97 women viewed a video of a female pharmaceutical sales representative who (a) had exposed cleavage or dressed modestly and (b) pitched an ineffective or effective product. Although men werenot more distracted or persuaded by cleavage, they gave the cleavage-exposed (versus nonexposed) sales representative more favorable hiring recommendations in the ineffective-drug condition and less favorable ratings in the effective-drug condition. Women generally rated the sales representative similarly regardless of cleavage exposure. On a postexperimental questionnaire, men, but not women,believed that female sales professionals ought strategically to use sex appeal to distract from a weak (but not a strong) product.

A Washington Post fashion columnist (Givhan, 2007) caused a media firestorm about the appropriateness of powerful women revealing hints of sexuality when she asserted that Hillary Clinton had shown cleavage during a presentation on the Senate floor. Past research onstereotypes of career women has suggested a desexualized, masculinized image of women in powerful (traditionally masculine) white-collar roles (Deaux, Winton, Crowley, & Lewis, 1985; Six & Eckes, 1991). However, many recent media images sexualize female professionals. Examples include televi-

Peter Glick, Karyna Chrislock, Korinne Petersik, Madhuri Vijay, and Aleksandra Turek, Department ofPsychology, Lawrence University. We gratefully acknowledge the help and cooperation of the executive director of the Appleton, Wisconsin YMCA, Carol Peterson, and YMCA President Fred Hauser for allowing us to recruit YMCA patrons and use their facilities. Arno Damerow aided in development of the video stimuli and Bill Skinner helped with the online questionnaire. Wendy Heldt and Karen Kewly provided keyadvice in conceptualizing the study and developing the experimental materials. Several Lawrence University students helped to run the study: Celeste Levitz-Jones, Sara Wexler, Zach PatrickRiley, and Noelle Reading. We especially thank Tammy Li Wawa for her contribution to this research. Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Peter Glick, Department of Psychology, Lawrence University,P.O. Box 599, Appleton, WI 54912-0599. E-mail:

sion depictions of sexy female lawyers and physicians. On The Apprentice, a reality show in which contestants vie for an actual executive job, female contenders often use sexiness to gain an advantage over male peers during weekly competitions. In 2004, for example, one Apprentice contestant was fired after offering to remove herskirt to induce men to pay the exorbitant price of $20 for a $1 candy bar, an act deemed unprofessional. Two female members of the winning team used sexuality in a subtler, and apparently acceptable, manner: They dressed as the “M&M twins,” wearing red bustiers and short black skirts, successfully enticing male buyers to purchase the candy bars for $5 each. In the same year, FHM (For Him Magazine)featured a photo shoot of “Women of The Apprentice” in sexy lingerie (“Women of the ‘The Apprentice’ featured in FHM’s May issue,” Business Wire, 2004). These media portrayals suggest that women may gain advantages by using sex to sell, but at a cost to perceptions of their professionalism. Male professionals, for whom norms about work attire are well-defined (the business suit) and who are less...