Black Fortune 500 CEOs with a "babyface" appearance are more likely to lead companies with higher revenues and prestige than black CEOs who look more mature, an upcoming study says.
In contrast with research showing that white executives are hindered by babyface characteristics, a disarming appearance can help black CEOs by counteracting the stigma that black men are threatening, according to the study from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.
The study is scheduled to be published in the journal Psychological Science in September.
A babyface is characterized by combinations of attributes, including a round face, full cheeks, larger forehead, small nose, large ears and full lips, the study says.
Decades of research has shown that people believe babyfaced adults to be more trustworthy, and respond to them with greater patience, sensitivity and compassion, according to Robert Livingston, co-author of the study and an assistant professor of organizations and management at Kellogg.
In the study, a group of 21 college students was shown photographs of 40 current and past CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Eleven of the students were white, 10 were Asian and 10 were female.
Of the 40 CEOs, 10 were black (only 10 blacks have ever led Fortune 500 companies). For every black CEO, a current or former white CEO from the same company was included. Another 10 CEOs were white women, and 10 white male CEOs were chosen at random.
Participants rated each photo on scale of 1-4 for "babyfaceness," leadership competence and personal warmth.