Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)


Dr. Misty Loughry

Second Advisor

Dr. Kimberly Jentsch

Third Advisor

Dr. Robert Ford


promotability, assertiveness, likability, competence, attractiveness, millennials, older workers, generation, assertive behavior, gender, gender bias, backlash, leadership


This study examined the impact of job candidates' gender and assertiveness on millennial and older generations of workers' perceptions of the candidates' likability, competence, and promotability. A 2x2 experimental methodology was used to test 11 hypotheses.

Participants watched one of four videos with a male and a female actor displaying assertive and non-assertive styles during an interview for a promotion opportunity. The results showed that the female candidate was considered slightly less promotable overall. Consistent with past research, perceptions of the candidate's competence and likability were strongly related to promotability. When displaying assertive behaviors, both male and female candidates were rated as less likable. Contrary to previous research, this negative effect of assertiveness on likability was not stronger for the female candidate. Also, contrary to past research, the assertive candidates were not perceived as more competent.

Ratings of promotability were not affected by whether the raters were millennials or from older generations. A generational difference in the impact of the candidate's assertiveness on likability was observed, but contrary to the hypothesis, members of older generations perceived the assertive candidates as less likable than millennials did. Consistent with past research, participants who evaluated the candidates as attractive also found them much more likable and competent.

This research contributes to the literature on leadership, gender bias, and backlash against assertive women and how these may be changing, particularly as millennials comprise more of the workforce. Overall, the results show less evidence of bias than was seen in studies from earlier decades.