Researchers from Michigan State University found that in a laboratory experiment women who described themselves using masculine-like traits (assertive, independent, achievement oriented) were evaluated as more fitting for the job than those who emphasised female-like traits (warmth, supportiveness, nurturing).
"We found that 'manning up' seemed to be an effective strategy, because it was seen as necessary for the job," said Ann Marie Ryan, co-author and MSU professor of psychology.
The findings refute the idea that women who emphasise counter-stereotypical traits might face a backlash for not conforming to expected gender roles.
When hiring for a leadership position in a male-dominated field such as engineering, Ryan said, decision makers appear to be looking for take-charge candidates regardless of gender.
Because there is ample evidence hiring discrimination exists for women, minorities, older workers and others, Ryan said it's time to start focusing on why discrimination occurs - and what a job seeker might do to combat it.
The study appears in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly.