Melissa Williams - Emory University, Goizueta Business School. Atlanta, GA, US

Melissa Williams Melissa Williams

Assistant Professor of Organization & Management | Emory University, Goizueta Business School

Atlanta, GA, US

Melissa Williams investigates what happens when power and organizational hierarchies intersect with gender, race, and culture.


Melissa J. Williams joined the Goizueta faculty in 2011, after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford. She earned a PhD in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Williams' research focuses on the components of interpersonal interaction that operate outside of conscious awareness, and how they affects decision-making, teamwork, success, and relationships at work and in life. She is particularly interested in what happens when power, dominance, and organizational hierarchy intersect with individuals' social identities, such as gender, race, and culture.

Areas of Expertise (5)

Gender in the Workplace Diversity in Organizations Leadership Power and Dominance Culture Social Psychology

Education (2)

University of California, Berkeley: Ph.D., Social / Personality Psychology 2008

Rice University: B.A., Psychology 1995

Media Appearances (5)

How Women Can Be Assertive (and Lovable)  online


Analyzing more than 70 studies about how people react to assertive behavior, business professors Melissa Williams of Emory University and Larissa Tiedens of Stanford University find that women tend to be punished for the same behaviors that we find perfectly acceptable in men.

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The Price Women Leaders Pay for Assertiveness—and How to Minimize It

Wall Street Journal  online


Do female leaders get penalized for being “too” assertive?The answer is definitely yes, according to our research. But there are big exceptions to that rule that give women plenty of leeway to take charge.

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Is Housework a Career Killer?

The Huffington Post  online


The study's co-authors, UC Berkeley psychologist Serena Chen and Emory University assistant professor of business Melissa Williams, conducted a series of experiments that demonstrated ambition wasn't affected when women shared household responsibilities with their spouses, only when they controlled them. While both female and male survey participants agreed having control of household decisions is desirable and advantageous, only women indicated that actually having that control impacted their career ambitions...

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Speaking Out About Women And Power

NPR  online


One set of studies, by professors Melissa Williams at Emory University and my colleague Serena Chen at UC Berkeley, found that women who saw themselves as "leaders" at home were on average less ambitious about career advancement, with no comparable effect for men. In other words, power inside the home seemed to compensate for power outside the home, but only for women...

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Working Moms Study: Household Managers Found To Have Less Ambition At Work

The Huffington Post  online


"As a result, women may make decisions such as not going after a high-status promotion at work, or not seeking to work full time, without realizing why," said Melissa Williams, an assistant professor of business at Emory University and lead author of the study...

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Articles (5)

The subtle suspension of backlash: A meta-analysis of penalties for women's implicit and explicit dominance behavior.

Feb. 2016

Previous research suggests that women, more than men, experience negative outcomes when they display dominance. A closer look, however, reveals ambiguity about the specific forms of dominance proscribed for women.

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Serving the Self From the Seat of Power Goals and Threats Predict Leaders’ Self-Interested Behavior


Why do some leaders use their position to amass personal prestige and resources, and others to benefit the team, the organization, or society? This article synthesizes new, cross-disciplinary research showing that self-serving leader behavior is predictable based on the function and nature of power—an essential component of leadership. First, because power increases goal-oriented behavior, it amplifies the tendency of self-focused goals to yield self-interested behavior.

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Selectively friending: Racial stereotypicality and social rejection

November 2012

Three studies show that people whose physical features are seen as more (versus less) racially stereotypical are more vulnerable to social rejection and exclusion from those outside their group.

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The masculinity of money: Automatic stereotypes predict gender differences in estimated salaries
Psychology of Women Quarterly


We present the first empirical investigation of why men are assumed to earn higher salaries than women (the salary estimation effect). Although this phenomenon is typically attributed to conscious consideration of the national wage gap (ie, real inequities in salary), we hypothesize instead that it reflects differential, automatic economic valuing of men and women. In the four studies described here, we demonstrate that the salary estimation effect is present in both student and community samples, is not explained by participants' ...

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Biological conceptions of race and the motivation to cross racial boundaries
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology


The present studies demonstrate that conceiving of racial group membership as biologically determined increases acceptance of racial inequities (Studies 1 and 2) and cools interest in interacting with racial outgroup members (Studies 3-5). These effects were generally independent of racial prejudice. It is argued that when race is cast as a biological marker of individuals, people perceive racial outgroup members as unrelated to the self and therefore unworthy of attention and affiliation. Biological conceptions of race therefore ...

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