There’s a pretty good chance you’re on LinkedIn, whether you own a business or work for someone else. Facebook is fun. You might make time for Twitter. But LinkedIn is the gold standard for professional networking.

Of course you have a profile picture. (Although some mopes still don’t.) That picture may be saying more about you than you realize.

Photofeeler, the profile photo testing platform, says your age and your gender affect the impression your picture makes on others.

They collected ratings of 100,000 business profile shots. That means they had more than a million opinions about the perceived Competence, Likability and Influence seen in those photos.

Here’s the scoop. It pays to be a man over 40.

Photos of older men were judged most Competent and most Influential. By far. Or as the Photofeeler people put it, “Being male and middle-aged makes you appear smart and in charge.”

Young men can’t win for losing. They had the worst scores for Competence, Influence and Likability.

Young women score much higher than anyone else when it comes to being liked. The highest numbers on any dimension for any group were the Likability ratings for women in their 20s.

And. Women’s Likability drops like a rock as we get older. Apparently nobody looking at LinkedIn profiles digs women in their 40s, 50s and beyond.

Photofeeler doesn’t venture a guess about the cause of that. But I will.

I suspect two things are at play in the declining Likability of aging women.

  • One is the premium our whole society puts on appearance and our preference for youthfulness. Research points to the connection between being conventionally attractive and being liked – by peers, professors, and employers. And there’s no doubt women are viewed as most attractive when they’re young.
  • Something else may be going on here too. I was much more eager to please as a young woman, weren’t you? At a certain age you kind of get over the idea that everyone has to like you. You come into your own, get comfortable with your opinions and generally become less of a people-pleaser. It follows that people who are not pleased might just think you’re less Likable than your younger sisters.

Of course those Likable young women barely register on the Competence scale. And they actually have a negative rating for Influence.

When you look at perceived Competence, both men and women receive higher scores as they get older. But the men’s numbers go up six times faster. So by age 60, the male-female gap is quite significant.

Same story with perceived Influence. We improve with age, all of us. But men move up on the Influence scale at 2.5 times the rate of women.

One more thing about men, women and profile photos. Women’s Competence and Likability scores are much more closely correlated than men’s.

Not surprising, right? You’ve probably worked with a guy along the way who was considered good at his job but not well liked.

A one-time program director comes to my mind. Brilliant at research but widely described as “not a people-person.” One of my colleagues never did buy into the distinction. Steve Dahl regularly referred to the guy as “The Brain in a Jar.”

We’re less likely to separate Competence and Likability for women. Basically, if you like a woman, you’re more likely to think she’s smart. If she’s not one of your favorites, she won’t get high marks for intelligence either.

Photofeeler put out an infographic – you might want to check that out.

I’d love to hear what you think – please post your comment. And if you test your own profile picture let us know how the Photofeeler judges rated it