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A potential generation gap: perspectives on female leadership

Kathryn Eileen Holden (Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, USA)
Deana M. Raffo (Department of Management & Marketing, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, USA)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 30 September 2014




The purpose of this study is to examine the potential relationship between generational membership and perspectives on female leadership.


Participants from Generation X (birth years from 1961 to 1980) and Generation Y (birth years from 1981 to 2000) rated 10 descriptor words, which came from Kouzes and Posner’s ten most admired leadership characteristics. Participants were put into three gender conditions: rating a male leader, female leader or gender-neutral leader.


Differences did not emerge for the gender conditions, probably due to the methodology implemented. However, findings indicated that Generation X members admired competency and honesty more than Generation Y members, while Generation Y members admired ambitiousness and determination more than Generation X members.

Social implications

By examining the perceptions of different generations, we can begin to track potential changes in this country’s perspective on female leadership.


This study addresses how generation may be specifically linked to attitudes toward leadership; however, few empirical research projects have been done on the subject. Because this area of research has not been explored thoroughly, the present study has the potential to yield new and illuminating results. The present study may be one of the first steps in determining if our views on female leadership are changing.



The authors would like to thank Middle Tennessee State University’s Undergraduate Research Experience and Creative Activity (URECA) program for a grant in support of this research.


Eileen Holden, K. and M. Raffo, D. (2014), "A potential generation gap: perspectives on female leadership", Gender in Management, Vol. 29 No. 7, pp. 419-431.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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