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Untangling the relationship between gender and leadership

Kenneth S. Rhee (Management Department, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, Kentucky, USA)
Tracey H. Sigler (Management Department, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, Kentucky, USA)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 13 April 2015




The purpose of this study is to empirically explore the perceptions of leader effectiveness and preference on gender and leadership style.


The interaction between authoritarian and participative leadership style and gender roles was examined for effectiveness and preference using video samples of dramatized leaders.


The results showed that although subjects found participatory leaders to be more effective and also preferred such a style over authoritarian leaders, male leaders were rated to be more effective and more preferred over female leaders. Women leaders who go against their gender stereotype were perceived as even less effective and less preferred than male leaders who exhibited the same style that was identified as a more masculine style.

Research limitations/implications

The results suggest that women leaders continue to face challenges overcoming both sexual bias and stereotypes. Women leaders, regardless of style, face an uphill battle in terms of perceptions of effectiveness and preference regardless of who their followers might be. In addition, women leaders who go against the typical gender stereotype might be penalized even more.

Practical implications

Despite making progress on gender equity, the study demonstrated the continuing existence of sexual stereotyping and bias in people’s perceptions, even with “younger” subjects. Thus, we need to maintain our focus on actively changing the rules of the workplace (e.g. a recent Harvard Business School experiment) and changing the status quo. Until we level the playing field, we need to continue to play an active role in creating an organizational culture and shaping an environment that is fair and equitable.


This paper highlights the current status of gender bias and stereotyping using an innovative methodology of video case studies. The results also highlight the persistence of gender bias and stereotype even in a “neutral” setting with the younger subjects. In addition, the paper empirically demonstrates the double standards women often face in the workplace. Women leaders have often been expected to demonstrate more masculine traits at workplace (as exhibited by the authoritarian style), but when they do, they are penalized for acting out of their gender role.



Rhee, K.S. and Sigler, T.H. (2015), "Untangling the relationship between gender and leadership", Gender in Management, Vol. 30 No. 2, pp. 109-134.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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