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The Likeability Trap

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The Likeability Trap

How to Break Free and Succeed as You Are


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Women face conflicting demands: to exhibit leadership qualities and to be likeable.

Editorial Rating



  • Eye Opening
  • Engaging
  • Inspiring


Journalist Alicia Menendez dissects the challenges facing women in the workplace and the public sphere as they try to navigate passage between the rock of “likeability” and the hard place of leadership qualities. Using research and anecdotes, she discusses why people see women who exhibit strength and achievement as cold and underhanded, but perceive warm, generous women as weak and incompetent. Menendez underscores the personal and economic cost of these biases and how businesses and society must change the way they evaluate and treat women.


Likeability is a widespread cultural measure of a woman’s value, but it’s also a quality people perceive as diminishing her ability to lead.

Warmth, the primary attribute of likeability in women, reads as weakness in the male-dominated business world. Yet, the more a woman demonstrates strength, the more that world perceives her as unlikeable.

Authenticity is essential to likeability and effective leadership, but these demands compete, and juggling them puts women in a bind – making them feel that if they come as they are, they will be either inadequate or too much. The requirement to present yourself authenticity is even more challenging for those whose identities don’t align with the majority culture.

The more a woman succeeds in her field, the less likeable she becomes. Asking for promotions, negotiating or claiming the achievements she has earned – all make other people like a woman less. The more successful she becomes, the higher she rises, the more others think negatively about her. They assume she is cold, her motives are dubious and her methods are underhanded.

Caring less what other people think of you ...

About the Author

Alicia Menendez anchors a weekend news program on MSNBC and hosts the podcast Latina to Latina.

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