IN ELECTIONS FOR directors of corporate boards, women are not judged
by their facial appearance, but men are. It's not their attractiveness that
wins over voters, but other qualities that viewers perceive in their faces.
That counterintuitive finding comes from research conducted by Philipp
Geiler, an associate professor in corporate finance at EMLyon Business
School in France; Luc Renneboog, a professor of corporate finance at Tilburg
University in the Netherlands; and Yang Zhao, a lecturer in banking
and finance at Newcastle University Business School in the U.K.
The researchers reviewed 621 corporate director elections and re-elections
in U.K. firms between the years 1996 and 2007. They calculated
an appearance score for candidates based on rankings from anonymous
raters, who scored candidates between 1 and 5 for their beauty, perceived
competence, trustworthiness, likability, and intelligence after seeing their
photographs. The researchers matched these average ratings with the percentage
of voters who either abstained or voted against directors in their
elections and re-elections.
While beauty had no impact, the study revealed that male directors
who were perceived as exhibiting competence, trustworthiness, likability,
and intelligence received more votes in their favor. In fact, as a candidate's
rating increased by one standard deviation, his likelihood of receiving
negative votes declined by 26 percent. Thus, when shareholders vote for
a male candidate, they are considering his physical appearance as well as
his professional background, education, or corporate track record.
On the other hand, the perceived beauty and character traits of female
candidates had no effect on the number of votes that they received. Geiler
adds, "In fact, women receive very little voting dissent at all, which is likely
due to top female directors still being in short supply, and companies and
shareholders recognizing the benefits of gender diversity at board level."
"Beauty and Appearance in Corporate Director Elections" was published
in the July 2018 issue of the Journal of International Financial
Markets, Institutions and Money.