Leadership Education and Gender Roles: Think Manager, Think "?"

Article excerpt


It has been nearly 40 years since the origination of the concept of "Think Manager, Think Male" in Virginia Schein's original article on the characteristics of managers and gender stereotypes (Schein, 1973). At the time of Schein's article, women accounted for about 5% of managers in organizations (Schein, 1973). According to a 2009 report by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, women held about 40% of management jobs in the United States; however only 2% of organizations listed in the Fortune 500 had CEOs that were women. While women have made progress into the lower and middle levels of management, they are still disproportionately excluded from the upper levels of organizations. A cause for this could still be blatant discrimination against women. We argue that this disproportionate representation may relate (at least in part) to the type of information students receive while studying management and leadership development.

One heavily researched area in leadership relates to gender role stereotypes. This research has resulted in three different research-based perspectives presently found in both textbooks and popular press works. The first view was established by Schein (1973, 1975) and Powell and Butterfield (1979, 1989, 2002) and is "Think manager, think male (or masculine)" which originated in the 1970s. The second perspective "Think manager, think female" was highlighted by research work done by Eagly, Helgesen, and Rosener in the late 1980s and 1990s. An additional third perspective, "There is no difference between men and women and management characteristics" was summarized by Vecchio (2002, 2007). This perspective states that the leadership characteristics of men and women are indistinguishable. These three conflicting perspectives are all present in today's educational materials for leadership, sending educators on a confusing voyage of trying to figure out what is most current and should be included in class materials and discussions.

Recently, Burke and Rau (2010) argued for bridging the research-teaching gap. One of their suggestions included selecting textbooks that integrate research findings. An underlying assumption of their argument would be that educators should read the published research, so that they are able to select books that are current. In the management field this would require instructors to maintain currency in far-reaching areas. An additional assumption of their suggestion is that those trained in reading and understanding academic research choose the books, when quite often textbooks are chosen by professional teachers at community colleges, or other institutions that do not emphasize research skills.

Management and leadership instructors look for guidance from researchers, practitioners, and textbooks regarding the skills that aspiring leaders need. Conflicting directions in the research, or worse, guidance based on faulty or outdated research can have lasting effects on those who learn the faulty information. Potentially, this issue can be compounded in leadership research as some highly influential research can cross over into the popular press, influencing the media, and other mainstream resources, resonating far beyond the classroom. This paper provides an extensive literature review of gender and gender roles in leadership to point out methodological flaws in previous research in addition to changes in socio economic and cultural factors. The survey instruments discussed have been used or cited in over 5,000 academic articles. These survey instruments have created the foundation for gender and leadership issues. Our arguments will show a need for new research and measurement tools to assess gender roles in leadership education. Although we are focusing on these types of issues in the leadership arena, we realize that this phenomenon is not exclusive to this area, and can likely be found in many areas of management research. …