Posted on May 5, 2009

Black CEOs Better Off If They Have a Baby Face

Mike Thomas, Chicago Sun Times, May 2, 2009


A new study from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management indicates that a youthful face is more likely to help black CEOs, like Aylwin Lewis of Sears and Clarence Otis, Jr., of Darden Restaurants.

But only if the baby face is black, according to a study spearheaded by Professor Robert Livingston of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. His findings–titled “The Teddy Bear Effect: Does babyfaceness benefit black CEOs?”–will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science.


“It’s any feature, trait or quality of a person that makes them appear to be less threatening and less hostile, and we believe that’s really critical for black males,” said Livingston, who has studied such areas as social inequality and institutional discrimination for nearly a decade. “Because the default, based on stereotypes in the society, is that many people perceive black males to be hostile and threatening. And so if you have some sort of feature that signals, ‘Hey, you don’t have to be afraid of me,’ or ‘I’m just like you,’ then that makes people feel more comfortable with these individuals in positions of power.”

The study asked non-black men and women to evaluate head-shot photos of 10 black men and 30 white women and men. The 10 blacks all were current or former CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

Participants rated each photo based on perceived babyfaceness, attractiveness, age and appearance. {snip}

Across the board, the black CEOs were thought to be warmer and more baby-faced. In addition, the more baby-faced black CEOs were thought to draw higher salaries. {snip}

Conversely, past studies have shown that babyfaceness hinders rather than helps white males who aspire to positions of power.