Melissa J. Williams joined the Goizueta faculty in 2011, after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. She earned a PhD in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Williams studies what happens when social identities (gender, race, stigma, or national culture) collide with workplace hierarchies. She also investigates the consequences of putting people in positions of power and leadership. Her research has been published in top journals (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Bulletin, Journal of Management), and covered in major media outlets (Forbes, The New York Times, Wall St. Journal). She is currently an Associate Editor at Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and serves as Area Coordinator for the Organization & Management area at Goizueta.
Selected recent papers:
Negro, G., Williams, M. J., Pontikes, E., & Lopiano, G. (2021). Destigmatization and its imbalanced effects. Management Science.
Williams, M. J., George-Jones, J., & Hebl, M. R. (2019). The face of STEM: Racial phenotypic stereotypicality predicts STEM persistence by – and ability attributions about – students of color. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 116(3), 416-443.
Williams, M. J., Gruenfeld, D. H., & Guillory, L. (2017). Sexual aggression when power is new: Effects of situational high power on chronically low-power individuals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 112(2), 201-223.
Williams, M. J., Tiedens, L. Z. (2016). The subtle suspension of backlash: A meta-analysis of penalties for women’s implicit and explicit dominance behavior. Psychological Bulletin, 142(2), 165-197.
Williams, M. J. (2014). Serving the self from the seat of power: Goals and threats predict self-interested leader behavior. Journal of Management, 40(5), 1365-1395.
PhDUniversity of California, Berkeley2008
In the News
March 25, 2019Atlanta Business ChronicleNew research from Emory’s Goizueta Business School shows that when it comes to selecting a college major, and potentially a career, professors, academic advisors and other students may influence a minority student’s choice and decision to stay in that major.
May 16, 2017New York TimesWho someone is—their character and cultural background—affects their approach to power. But contextual clues about how power should be used can be surprisingly effective in altering leadership behavior.
October 23, 2016Boston GlobeBeginning with an inquiry into sexual harassment as an abuse of power, exploring the link between the two elements revealed that it may not be absolute power, but newfound power that unleashes manipulative behavior.
July 19, 2016Law.comAnalyzing 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.
May 30, 2016Wall Street JournalDo 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.
March 24, 2013The Huffington PostThe 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...
February 4, 2013NPROne 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...
January 22, 2013The Huffington Post"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...