GENDER AND LEADERSHIP When Carlyle (1841) laid out his in”uential “great man theory” of leadership, his story included women only as wives and mothers. He omitted Vietnam’s national heroines, the Trung sisters, who raised a mostly female army almost 2,000 years ago and succeeded for a time in pushing out Chinese overlords. Nor did he mention Joan of Arc, revered in France for leading her dispirited prince to the victories over the English that he needed in order to be coronated as King of France. The implicit, taken-for-granted assumption was that leadership is a male activity. Recent decades, however, have seen a dramatic shift in women’s roles and accomplishments. At the end of 2016, some of the world’s most prominent leaders were women, including Germany’s long-serving chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Theresa May, the new prime minister in the United Kingdom. In breaking through old barriers and bringing their own strengths and styles to traditionally male roles, an increasing number of women have blazed new paths.
One example is Karren Brady, who became managing director of the Birmingham (England) City Football Club in 1993. At 23, she was the youngest and the only female head of an English professional soccer team. As you might expect, she ran into some challenges. There was the strapping forward who told her on the team bus that he liked her blouse because he could see her breasts through it. She looked him in the eye and replied, “Where
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I’m going to send you, you won’t be able to see them from there.” A week later, he was downgraded to a club a hundred miles away. There was the time the directors of another team told her how fortunate she was that they were willing to let her into their owners’ box. She !red back, “The day I have to feel grateful for half a lager and a pork pie in a dump of a little box with a psychedelic carpet is the day I give up” (Hoge, 2002, p. A14. Copyright ! 2002 by The New York Times Co. Reprinted by permission.).
Brady got plenty of media attention, but it often focused on her looks and wardrobe. One newspaper ran a full-page photo of her in a short skirt under the headline “Sex Shooter.” Another described her entry into ameeting: “Every inch themodern woman, she totters into the room on high-heeled strappy sandals and a short and sexy black suit.” Brady was continually perplexed: “I came here to run a business, to put right a dilapidated, rundown operation with a series of business solutions. But the media, with the combination of my age, the way I look, and obviously the fact that I was a female—the !rst in a male-dominated world—went into a frenzy. It was unbelievable. I’d be in press conferences, and journalists would actually ask me my vital statistics” (Hoge, 2002, p. A14. Copyright ! 2002 by The New York Times Co. Reprinted by permission). Brady did not have the bene!t of later research showing that “self-sexualizing” women suffered a backlash related to discomfort with women being powerful (Infanger, Rudman, and Sczesny, 2014)
Still, Brady understood that publicity, even tinged with notoriety, was good for business. She took a team that had never shown a pro!t from the edge of bankruptcy to become one of the England’s strongest teams, both on the !eld and at the cash register. The club was sold in 2009 for almost $130 million. She even overcame the complications that might have arisen after she married one of her players. She bought and sold her husband twice, making over a million pounds in the process. She won businesswoman-of-the-year awards, and even her fellow football executives recognized her talent, naming her to represent them in negotia- tions for the national television contract that provided much of their revenue.
Women like Karren Brady have proven that they can lead in a man’s world. But do men and women lead differently? Are they seen differently in leadership roles? Why do men still have such a disproportionate hold on positions of institutional and organizational power? Research on gender and leadership has asked these and other questions, and we turn next to some of the answers that have emerged.
Do Men and Women Lead Differently? Book (2000), Helgesen (1990), Rosener (1990), and others have argued that women bring a “female advantage” to leadership. They believe that modern organizations need the leadership style that women are more likely to offer, including concern for people,
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nurturance, and willingness to share information. But the evidence is equivocal. We might expect, for example, that women would be higher on people attributes (warmth, support, participation) and lower on political characteristics (power, shrewdness, aggression), more “communal” and less “agentic.” But examples like Karren Brady and “the Iron Lady,” British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, tell us that things are not so simple. In fact, research gives such stereotypes limited support (Van Engen, Van der Leeden, and Willemsen, 2001; Dobbins and Platz, 1986; Eagly and Johnson, 1990; Bolman and Deal, 1991, 1992a).
For the most part, the available evidence suggests that men and women in similar positions are more alike than different, at least in the eyes of their subordinates (Bolman and Deal 1991, 1992a; Carless, 1998; Komives, 1991; Morrison, White, and Van Velsor, 1987; Paustian-Underdahl, Walker, and Woehr, 2014; Thompson, 2000). When differences are detected, they often show women scoring somewhat higher than men on a variety of measures of leadership and managerial behavior (Bass, Avolio, and Atwater, 1996; Eagly and Carli, 2003; Edwards, 1991; Hallinger, Bickman, and Davis, 1990;Weddle, 1991;Wilson and Wilson, 1991). But the differences are not large, and it is not clear that they have practical signi!cance, except among physicians—female doctors get better outcomes in terms of mortality and hospital readmission rates (Tsugawa et al., 2016).
Why the Glass Ceiling? And the Glass Cliff? If women lead at least as well as men, why does the so-called glass ceiling cap their rise to top positions? Growing numbers are now in the pipeline leading to the executive suite. In the United States, they are a substantial majority of college students and an expanding presence in professional schools—more than half of education and law students and close to half in business and medical schools. This is a dramatic shift (except in education, where they have long been a majority).
Nevertheless, in 2014, women made up less than 10 percent of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies (Glass andCook, 2016).More than half the companies did not have a single female of!cer. The story is similar in education. In American schools, women constitute the great majority of teachers and a growing percentage ofmiddlemanagers, yet in 2010 they accounted for slightly less than a quarter of school superintendents (Kowalski et al., 2010). That was only slightly more than in 1930, though it was up from a low of 1.2 percent in 1981 (Keller, 1999).
There is no consensus about what sustains the glass ceiling, but evidence points to several contributing factors:
• Stereotypes associate leadership with maleness. Both men and women tend to link leadership characteristics to men more than women (Schein, 1975, 1990). Job applicants
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with more masculine voices get rated as more competent (Ko, Judd, and Stapel, 2009), Even with identical backgrounds, female CEOs are seen as less capable, and therefore less worthy of investment, than men (Bigelow, Parks, and Wuebker, 2012).
• Women walk a tightrope of con!icting expectations. Simply put, high-level jobs are “powerful, but women, in the minds of many people, should not be” (Keller, 1999). Women have the dif!cult challenge of being powerful and “feminine” at the same time. Expressing anger and wanting power are viewed as positive or neutral traits for men, but negative ones for women (Brescoll and Uhlmann, 2008; Okimoto and Brescoll, 2010). Women are attracted to intelligent men, but men are not enthusiastic about women who are smarter than they are (Fisman et al., 2006). As a woman running for president in 2016, Hillary Clinton had to negotiate this tightrope. How could she prove that she was tough enough to be commander-in-chief without seeming too angry or too smart? How could she show feminine warmth and caring without seeming weak?
• Women encounter discrimination. In ancient fairy tales as well as modern !lms, powerful women often turn out to be witches (or worse). Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is typical of many stories with the message that a strong woman is dangerous unless tamed by a stronger man. The historical association of powerful men with leadership and of powerful women with evil produces unspoken and often unconscious bias. Subtle gender biases associate competence with maleness and inhibit women’s ability to accumulate the “career capital” that leads to success (Valian, 1999; Fitzsimmons and Callan, 2016).
• Parenting has a positive career impact for men but a negative one for women.Women are rated lower on almost everything if they are parents, but the opposite is true for men (Correll and Benard, 2007). Bosses, regardless of gender, see women as having greater family-work con”ict than men, even when their family situations are the same (Hoobler, Wayne, and Lemmon, 2009). Those perceptions in turn led them to see women as less promotable.
• Women pay a higher price. Shakeshaft (cited in Keller, 1999) argues that the rewards of senior positions are lower for women because, compared with men, they have higher needs for success in their family and personal lives but lower needs for esteem and status. Almost 70 percent of women in one study named personal and family responsibilities as by far the biggest barrier to their career success (Morris, 2002). Executive jobs impose a crushing workload on incumbents. The burden is even more overwhelming for women, who still do the majority of the housework and child rearing in most dual-career families. That helps to explain why fast-track women are less likely to marry and, if they do marry, are more likely to divorce (Heffernan, 2002; Keller, 1999). It also clari!es why many
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women who do make it to the top are blessed with “trophy husbands”—those hard-to- !nd stay-at-home dads (Morris, 2002).
• Women in high positions are pushed toward the “glass