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Think manager, think male? Heterosexuals’ stereotypes of gay and lesbian managers

Benjamin E. Liberman (Department of Organization and Leadership, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA)
Frank D. Golom (Department of Psychology, Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland, USA)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 21 September 2015




The purpose of this paper is to extend the “think manager, think male” research paradigm by examining managerial stereotypes as a function of both gender and sexual orientation, thus comparing the similarity of managerial stereotypes against the stereotypes of male (heterosexual and gay) and female (heterosexual and lesbian) managers.


In total, 163 heterosexual participants used the 92-item Descriptive Index attribute inventory to rate one of five target groups: successful managers, heterosexual male managers, heterosexual female managers, gay male managers, and lesbian female managers. Intraclass correlation coefficients were calculated to assess the degree of correspondence between ratings of the target groups.


The findings showed a higher correspondence between the descriptions of heterosexual male or female managers and the successful manager prototype than between the descriptions of gay male managers and the successful manager prototype. Additionally, results showed that the stereotypes of lesbian female managers were seen as having a moderate level of fit with the successful manager prototype.

Practical implications

The results of this study suggest that heterosexuals’ beliefs about gay male and lesbian female managers’ abilities are important. In particular, heterosexuals’ stereotypes that gay males lack the qualities of being a successful manager can limit gay men’s access to positions with managerial responsibilities and impede their progress into leadership positions.


This study addresses a critical gap in the management literature as it is the first empirical investigation to assess whether the “think manager, think male” phenomenon holds for managers who are members of sexual minority groups.



Liberman, B.E. and Golom, F.D. (2015), "Think manager, think male? Heterosexuals’ stereotypes of gay and lesbian managers", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 34 No. 7, pp. 566-578.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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