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Sex, gender, and the US presidency: ready for a female President?

Gary N. Powell (Department of Management, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, USA)
D. Anthony Butterfield (Isenberg School of Management, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 23 August 2011




The purpose of this paper is to examine perceptions of the “Ideal President” and candidates in the 2008 US presidential election in relation to gender and leader prototypes.


A total of 768 undergraduate business students rated either the ideal President or a presidential candidate on Bem Sex‐Role Inventory and Implicit Leadership Theory scales.


The ideal President was seen as more similar to male candidates as a group than female candidates as a group (i.e. “think president – think male”). The ideal President was seen as higher in masculinity than femininity (i.e. “think president – think masculine”).

Research limitations/implications

Additional factors beyond gender and leader prototypes may affect perceptions of presidential candidates and the ideal President. Respondents came exclusively from northeastern USA; hence, results may not be generalizable to other populations. Replication of this study in nations that have elected a female leader is recommended. Future theory and research should link perceptions of male and female leaders in different nations to dimensions of national culture such as gender egalitarianism.

Social implications

The results suggest the continued presence of sex‐related biases in leader evaluations in the political context. Such biases influence whether specific groups are excluded from political leadership because of their personal characteristics (e.g. women), which would dilute the talent of the pool of available candidates.


The results increase knowledge of the linkages among sex, gender, and political leadership by incorporating both gender and leader prototypes.



Powell, G.N. and Butterfield, D.A. (2011), "Sex, gender, and the US presidency: ready for a female President?", Gender in Management, Vol. 26 No. 6, pp. 394-407.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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