erotic capital

Face up to it – you’ve either got it or you haven’t

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ThumbsUp-maleScientists are claiming that seeing someone’s face for less than 100 milliseconds is enough to create an impression of your trustworthiness, aggressiveness, and attractiveness.

Your personality traits, your leadership abilities and your potential criminality can also be deduced from your facial appearance.

Psychologists have argued about this for some time but new evidence from Rollins College in Florida suggests it might be true.

Marc Fetscherin, a professor at the International Business School found a correlation between company profits and the shape of the Chief Executive’s face.

51ZfQfM8obL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In his new book, CEO Branding, he describes how successful business leaders tend to have broader faces than average meaning others view them as more dominant and successful.

He said “Facial width to height ratio correlates with real world measures of aggressive and ambitious behaviour and is associated with a psychological sense of power. It is therefore possible that it could predict leadership performance“.

Similar results were found by researchers at Sussex University where they analysed the faces of FTSE100 Chief Executives.

The researchers there thought underpinning this was a high level of testosterone which is associated with aggression and pursuit of dominance and which also influences the growth of muscle and bone.

Research from Finland among military personnel suggests that this view of wide-faced men being leaders might not be universally applicable in different kinds of organisations however.

With regard to personality traits there is also evidence that up to 10% of CEOs in the UK, USA and Australia have psychopathic or narcissistic tendencies – the dark side of leadership.

It’s also been known for centuries that tall, attractive people were more likely to be in leadership positions. For one thing good-looking people tend to be brighter and being well-nourished in times past probably meant you came from a privileged background – always a good starting point.

The idea that we can read people just by looking at them for 1/10th of a second has been around for a long time and was associated with physiognomy and eugenics which became disreputable. 

Today however it is still relevant when it comes to career progression. Apart from the research on CEOs, which is based predominantly on men, the research on women suggests that you can be too good-looking to get an interview.

Despite that many women, and increasingly men, are boosting their looks artificially in order to enhance their erotic capital.

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Women and Teams

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BusMtg07not always words you find together given that many women in business have reputations as either “Queen Bees“, people who make the most of their “erotic capital“, or simply aggressive.

Then we had the research finding that said that to make a team more intelligent – simply add more women.

But the question is whether or not women like working in teams?

Two academic economists (and have you noticed how economists are trespassing on research topics more typically associated with psychologists) have published results of an experiment in the Economic Journal.

They found that in competitive tasks 80% of men chose to do it as individuals compared to just under 30% of women (they were equally able on the tasks). They called this the “gender competition gap” and found that it shrank by more than half when the only option was to compete in teams. Then 67% of men and 45% of women chose to compete.

Previous research has shown that men prefer to compete more than women even when they are equally able to do the task. The economists, Andrew Healey and Jennifer Pate, say that it is the environment which is important and changing that can narrow the gender competition gap.

They point out that there are few women CEOs of FTSE100 companies and think that if the emphasis was shifted away from “testosterone-fuelled gladiatorial-style competition” to an environment that focusses on their team-working ability, things could change in favour of women.

They also point out that men will apply for jobs for which they are under-qualified whilst women do the opposite and if selection or competition was based on teamwork more women and fewer men might apply.

I posted on this following the publication of a management survey which showed that people trusted female CEOs more than male ones to get their company out of recession and save jobs.

But women suffer more than men from “imposter syndrome” and are therefore less likely to apply for jobs unless they are highly confident they can do them, whereas men are more likely to overestimate their capability and apply regardless.

Erotic Capital revisited

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P1020328Dr Catherine Hakim was the closing keynote speaker at the 4th international Delta Intercultural Academy Conference on Global Leadership Competence: Personal Qualities, Culture, Language held in Konstanz, Germany.

She was a sociologist at the LSE when she achieved a degree of notoriety with her book “Money Honey: The Power of Erotic Capital” which was published in 2011. I blogged about it at the time and that blog has been one of my most popular so obviously of interest in the wider world.

She now works as Professorial Research Fellow at think tank Civitas Institute for the Study of Civil Society but still holds the same views.

She believes that just as we have Human Capital and Social Capital we also have Erotic Capital. This is a mixture of things including appearance, and charisma.

She quoted economist Daniel Hamermesh who found that better looking managers earned more money and CEOs of large companies were more attractive than CEOs of smaller companies.

And companies that employed attractive people were more profitable. (Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People are More Successful by Daniel Hamermesh. Princeton University Press)

She pointed out that despite a world-wide recession people were still spending money on luxury items and in particular things which made people look good.

In a competitive job market appearance is important and people work hard at impression management because the social benefits of attractiveness are worth about 15% more pay.

Excluding the effect of IQ attractiveness is as good as having qualifications in many jobs.

She took some criticism from certain participants but stood her ground. “I’m a social scientist and just telling you how it is” she responded at one point.

And she’s not the only person to have researched in this area and found similar outcomes.

I liked her quote from Aristotle: “Beauty is the best letter of introduction“.

And she made her presentation without a Powerpoint in sight – a welcome change.

I first attended one of these conferences – dedicated to intercultural issues – with my colleague two years ago and we enjoyed it so much we resolved to return to this beautiful resort on the Bodensee (or Lake Constance).

It was another excellent conference – thank you Peter Franklin for organising it.

Originally posted on SGANDA in 2014

Boobs, botox and erotic capital

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IMG_0536What do Obama, Jordan, Beyoncé, and Tina Turner have in common but Gordon and Sarah Brown don’t?

Well according to Catherine Hakim a sociologist at the LSE it’s Erotic Capital. Something she believes is 50% innate and 50% learned. She thinks EC is; “sex appeal, charm and social skills, physical fitness and liveliness, sexual competence and skills in self-presentation”.

If you have it you can earn 10-15% more than your colleagues (but that applies to taller people too). She thinks women usually have more than men but men are catching up with their use of botox (see my previous posting “Body Language and the B problem“) and male moisturisers, whilst both sexes are found spending time at the gym, or under the knife, improving their appearance.

Using EC apparently means anything from flirting subtly with the boss to commercially exploiting a large pair of breasts. She sees Katie Price and Posh Spice as people not endowed with high IQs who make the most of what they have but are looked down on for it – perhaps because of our Anglo-Saxon puritanism.

I can’t decide whether this is good news or not! Annoying radical feminists can’t be all bad but do we want to see more sexualisation in the work place?

Is this the new “emotional intelligence”? Is there a role for HR and training experts?

Kate Spicer who interviewed her for The Sunday Times was clearly a little confused too. She referred to Hakim’s foxy red hair, expertly applied makeup with a dash of botox and also her use of some of the EC skills she seems to be endorsing, whilst claiming to be a feminist.

A Personnel Today’s journalist also picked up on this story in his blog amusingly referring to erotic capitals such as Paris, Amsterdam or Prague! However like me and my reader TG he suggests a niche market for seminars and consultants as EC becomes a new, sexier, version of Human Capital Management.

Updated 19 January 2011: Researchers have now found that you can have both brains and beauty! Life can be so cruel.

Studies in America and the UK show that handsome men and beautiful women tend to be cleverer than the norm by about 14 IQ points. The findings suggest that as both beauty and intelligence are inherited the offspring of people with these attributes will inherit both qualities and this will be reinforced in subsequent generations.

Satoshi Kanazawa, the LSE researcher, found that the association between physical attractiveness and general intelligence was stronger for men than for women: 14 points higher than average for men and 12 points for women – so hard to maintain a view about dumb blondes.

This research, published in Intelligence, was based on the Child Development Study of 17,000 British children born in March 1958 which has monitored them ever since, and the American National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health – a similar study of 35,000 young Americans.

Kanazawa’ argument is that; “if more intelligent men are more likely to attain higher status, and if men of higher status are more likely to marry beautiful women, then, given that both intelligence and physical attractiveness are highly heritable, there should be a positive correlation between intelligence and physical attractiveness in the children’s generation”.

Beauty happens to be Kanazawa’s special research interest and he has also found that middle class girls not only have higher IQs than working class girls but are also more attractive.

The report in the Sunday Times (16/1/11) doesn’t explain how physical attractiveness was measured or rated and the example given, model Lily Cole who is studying at Cambridge, is not, in my opinion, beautiful (but to me neither is Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell, so it shows how subjective beauty can be). To his credit Kanazawa does say that these are purely statistical findings and shouldn’t be applied to individuals or prescribe how to judge people.

Updated 19 August 2011: You’ve read my blog on this topic and now you can buy Carol Hakim’s new book; “Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital”.

The Daily Mail also published a piece by the author which is bound to upset the feminists and PC brigade (so that’s a plus).

I can’t say I necessarily I agree with some of the celebrities used as examples. I don’t find Posh Spice the least bit attractive nor Renee Zellwegger or Madonna but it just goes to show that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.