Baby-faced black CEOs

Having a baby face benefits black CEOs, says a new study from researchers at Northwestern University. Not only are black CEOs more baby faced than white ones, they are also judged to be warmer. Furthermore, baby faced black CEOs tend to lead more prestigious firms and make more money than mature-faced ones. Researchers suggested that a baby face is disarming and lessens the impact of stereotypical perceptions that blacks are threatening.

The research builds upon earlier work (Rule and Ambady, 2009; Zebrowtiz and Montepare, 2005) that showed having a baby face could be a liability for people seeking high leadership positions in government or private industry. Those studies looked exclusively at White males. The current study looked to examine whether these results would apply to, or differ in the case of, other social groups, particularly, black men.

The results showed that having a baby face benefitted black men in CEO positions compared to black men who were more mature faced in terms of both earning higher compensation and leading more prestigious companies. And although Black male CEOs with baby faces were perceived as being warmer than their white counterparts, they were also perceived as being less competent.

The implications of these findings are noteworthy for Black men aspiring to leadership positions in American corporations. As the researchers point out, White males often display competent leadership by employing angry and authoritative leadership styles (expressing anger, banging on tables, aggressively dressing down employees, etc…) High-ranking Black male leaders may not have this same luxury, having to resort to a more moderate and constrained style of leadership.