Just Not That Likeable - The Price All Women Pay for Gender Bias

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Senator Romero provides the first comprehensive accounting of why we like “Howard” but dislike “Heidi” in leadership roles—and what we can do to overcome this gender bias.

Gloria Romero—former California Senate Majority Leader and Professor Emeritus of Psychology—shatters the glass ceiling in a sweeping takedown of gender bias at the workplace and the price women and society pay for the virulent, double standard of “the likability factor” that persists in the workplace. She exposes the link between success and likability that 21st-century women leaders face in politics and the workplace.

In a book both accessible and enlightening, Senator Romero stands as a woman unafraid to break down barriers for women. As the first female Majority Leader of the upper house in California’s State Legislature, she authored major reform laws in public education, criminal justice, governmental ethics, and transparency. 

Just Not That Likable is the story of a trailblazer who understood that while the 20th-century sexism of unequal pay for equal work had been outlawed and anti-discrimination laws had become common, there was still a hidden likability penalty and the so-called “double bind” applied to successful women. The book features the most comprehensive review to date of what is known about the “double bind” faced by women executives and leaders: they are expected to exhibit strength and lead, but are penalized as being “abrasive” or exhibiting characteristics stereotyped as being masculine. Drawing on her own life as well, Senator Romero’s journey leads her to the realization that when women smash through the persisting ceiling—still with us in the 21st century—the shards cut. Too deep and too often, these practices and behaviors shut down opportunity for our daughters, sisters, and each other. Just Not That Likable recognizes that our workplaces must promote practices, policies, and cultures which confront and disassemble this double bind for women.

About the Author


A forceful advocate for women’s rights, former State Senator Gloria Romero was the first woman to serve in leadership as California Senate Majority Leader. A Professor Emeritus at California State University, Los Angeles, she has a PhD in Psychology.

Praise For…


“Women who break the glass ceiling can find themselves bloodied in the process. Being effective as a woman often means confronting stereotypes and ‘likeability’ demands not made of men. As a trailblazer in policy and education, Dr. Romero has broken barriers and lived the consequences. Her book raises important questions for those of us working to ensure our daughters face more equitable paths to success and impact, paths that embrace their strength and temper the double standard we face.”
— Caprice Young, Ed.D, National Superintendent, Lifelong Learning; Former Board of Education President, Los Angeles Unified School District; and Founding CEO, California Charter Schools Association

“Senator Romero exposes the persistence of gender inequity and workplace double standards still experienced by women. The book should be read as a call to action to state legislatures across the country to pass legislation mandating gender bias training, and stiffen penalties for those perpetuating impenetrable glass ceilings made of cement. As women are increasingly running for political offices and seeking entrance to leadership positions in both the private and public sectors, it is vital that we support these emerging women leaders. As the past Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, I believe that we need to educate all girls with the understanding that these double-binds experienced by their grandmothers, mothers, and aunts will no longer be tolerated.”
— Hon. California State Senator Connie M. Leyva

“Senator Gloria Romero served as Senate Democratic Majority Leader of the California State Senate, the first woman to serve in that office in the upper house. Dr. Romero’s dynamic legislative leadership was precursor to women subsequently becoming President of the Senate and Speaker of the Assembly. She influenced all major policy decisions affecting education, social justice, and access to government. This book pays homage—and is a tribute—to all the strong women for whom she advocated to no longer suffer the indignities and discriminatory behaviors still disturbingly present in today’s workplaces.”
— Former President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate, Don Perata

“As an employment lawyer, I am shocked by the number of times a competent woman is told that she is too brash, too heavy-handed, or too demanding. Often, a man who exhibits the same characteristics is the one leveling these criticisms. And the employers rarely see it. Or if they do, they don’t call it out. This book is another step towards bringing the necessary attention to these sexist double standards.”
— David G. Greco, Attorney, RMO LLP

“Throughout my professional career, because I am a woman, I was challenged to be better, to be stronger, to be more focused than my male counterpart.  To do that, I had to project decisiveness, empathy, intellect, and persistence. If I was perceived as selfish, opinionated, and domineering—I figured it was their problem of perception and I defined their own sexism, classism, and racism of the preceptor. Interesting dialogue would ensue! Gloria Romero’s interpretation in this book vindicates my perception of myself. I am a warrior and I am okay with it.”
— Emma Lechuga, Woman, Chicana, Educator, Entrepreneur

“An insightful and well-written book that describes the obstacles and difficulties that women in leadership positions face when they strive to shatter gender and racial barriers. Gloria Romero has proven herself to be one of the most effective and passionate advocates for creating a stronger system for reporting and responding to sexual harassment and misconduct. This is a compelling and important book that provides a blueprint for a more inclusive future and serves as an inspiration for a new generation of public servants.”
— Hon. Joe Coto, Former California State Assembly member and Chair Emeritus, of the California Latino Legislative Caucus; Superintendent of Schools in Oakland and San Jose