How Having Blonde Hair is Helping a Certain Type of CEO

And which category would that be?

Somewhat concerningly, it’s CEOs of the female variety.

Research from two business-school professors at the University of British Columbia indicates that blonde women are far more likely to end up in the CEO’s chair than women with any other hair color.

“Our data suggest that blonde women are not only assumed to be younger than their darker haired counterparts, but are also judged to be less independent-minded and less willing take a stand than other women and than men.”

Just 2% of the world’s population and 5% of white people in the U.S. are blonde, comparing to 48% of female CEOs at S&P 500 companies, the study found.

The same rule doesn’t appear to apply to men: a study in 2005 found that just over 2% of male Fortune 500 CEOs were blonde.

The discrepancy appears to challenge the stereotype of the dumb blonde, although Professor Jennifer Berdahl says this may not actually be the case.

“Our data suggest that blonde women are not only assumed to be younger than their darker haired counterparts, but are also judged to be less independent-minded and less willing take a stand than other women and than men,” she writes in her blog.

“In other words, Barbie can be CEO as long as she is young and/or docile, or being blonde might allow her to be older and more forceful than she otherwise could be.”

And if female CEOs are dying their hair blonde, there may be something strategic about the choice, Berdhal told the Huffington Post.

“If the package is feminine, disarming and childlike, you can get away with more assertive, independent and [stereotypically] masculine behavior,” she said.

Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.

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