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.


  • Ph.D.
    University of California, Berkeley
  • B.A.
    Rice University

Media Appearances

  • May 16, 2017
    New York Times
    Who 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, 2016
    Boston Globe
    Beginning 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, 2016
    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.
  • March 24, 2013
    The Huffington Post
    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...
  • February 4, 2013
    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...