Researchers say this behavior is also condoned for white men, while black men and white women are often penalized for being too forceful.
The study is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
Researchers determined that rather than being viewed as a combination of black men and white women, aggressive black women are accepted in work settings.
“Traditionally, women have been assigned to a more subordinate role,” said Robert W. Livingston of Northwestern University, who co-wrote the new study with Ashleigh Shelby Rosette of Duke University and Ella F. Washington of Northwestern.
Rosette explained that according to prevailing cultural norms, men are expected to occupy dominant roles, while women are typically prescribed to more communal roles.
Historical research has shown that when people think about a prototypical leader, they tend to think about a white man. If women behave in a way that is at odds with these prototypical roles – more dominant and less communal, for example – they will be perceived in a negative light.