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Women’s ways of leading: the environmental effect

Leanne Dzubinski (Biola University, La Mirada, California, USA)
Amy Diehl (Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, USA)
Michelle Taylor (Institute of Clinical Social Work, Chicago, Illinois, USA)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 14 March 2019

Issue publication date: 7 May 2019




This paper aims to present a model describing how women enact executive leadership, taking into account gendered organizational patterns that may constrain women to perform leadership in context-specific ways.


This paper discusses gendered organizations, role congruity theory and organizational culture and work context. These strands of theory are interwoven to construct a model describing ways in which executive-level women are constrained to self-monitor based on context.


The pressure on women to conform to an organization’s executive leadership culture is enormous. Executive women in strongly male-normed executive leadership contexts must exercise strong gendered self-constraint to break through the glass ceiling. Women in strongly male-normed contexts using lessened gendered self-constraint may encounter a glass cliff. Women in gender-diverse-normed contexts may still operate using strong gendered self-constraint due to internalized gender scripts. Only in gender-diverse-normed contexts with lessened gendered-self-restraint can executive women operate from their authentic selves.

Practical implications

Organizational leaders should examine their leadership culture to determine levels of pressure on women to act with gendered self-constraint and to work toward creating change. Women may use the model to make strategic choices regarding whether or how much to self-monitor based on their career aspirations and life goals.


Little has been written on male-normed and gender-diverse-normed contexts as a marker for how executive-level women perform leadership. This paper offers a model describing how different contexts constrain women to behave in specific, gendered ways.



Dzubinski, L., Diehl, A. and Taylor, M. (2019), "Women’s ways of leading: the environmental effect", Gender in Management, Vol. 34 No. 3, pp. 233-250.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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