Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Nurturing Gender Stereotypes in the Face of Experience: A Study of Leader Gender, Leadership Style, and Satisfaction

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Nurturing Gender Stereotypes in the Face of Experience: A Study of Leader Gender, Leadership Style, and Satisfaction

Article excerpt


Stereotypes are generally defined as qualities or traits assigned to certain groups on the basis of their race, sex, nationality, age, religion or other characteristics. These qualities are generalizations given to the entire group even though they may not describe all the members of that specific group. In our society, stereotypes are almost always perceived as negative because they can lead to discrimination and they reduce the amount of individuality amongst different people. Although there is much literature that warns against the use of stereotypes, the act of stereotyping is very common (Northouse, 2007; Adams & Yoder, 1985).

In this paper we examine the role of gender or sex role stereotypes as they relate to leadership. We also investigate whether men or women leaders actually fall into their gender stereotype. We explore differences in male and female leaders with an emphasis on their level of concern for production and their level of concern for people.


Northouse (2007) explains stereotypes as cognitive shortcuts that people use to process information about specific groups. Stereotypes usually come from historical or cultural norms that suggest specific groups of people are naturally prone to or biologically made to act a certain way. However, stereotypes can change over time with shifts in a society's culture. As researchers point out, the amount of women in leadership positions, at least at the supervisory and middle management level, have been increasing over the past half century (Duehr & Bono, 2006; Eagly & Karau, 2002). A cultural shift like this may act as a catalyst to change the stereotype assigned to a certain group (Koenig et al., 2011). Stereotypes can also come from other factors such as experience, mass media, and even socioeconomic status (Carpenter, 2012; Krieglmeyer & Sherman, 2012).

If an individual has a specific experience with a certain group, that experience can serve as a memory to form a stereotype about another member of the same group later. For example, say a man who continually struggles in math finds a tutor that explains everything so that the individual understands and the tutor seems especially skilled in this subject. If this particular tutor is a Hispanic woman, the individual may use this memory of the tutor when he encounters other Hispanic women and assume that they are also good at math. Krieglmeyer and Sherman (2012) suggest that encountering a member of a specific group is the most typical method in which stereotypes are activated. However, stereotypes can be formed in other ways, such as the constant use of them in mass media.

In an article entitled "Construction of the Crack Mother Icon," Carpenter (2012) examines the use of the American mass media in creating a distorted image for African American Women as crack addicted mothers. She states that "audiences perceive extreme or distorted visual images as realistic if they are familiar" (Carpenter, 2012, p.265). A specific example she states are the characters of Jezebel in the film Birth of a Nation and Sapphire Stevens in the Amos n' Andy minstrel style radio show. Both of these characters, played by African American actresses, are promiscuous, overbearing, angry women (Carpenter, 2012). She explains the progression of this stereotypical image in film and advertisements. When people continually see the same types of people in the same roles throughout the media, they begin to create a stereotype for these people.


The term gender is frequently thought to be interchangeable with the term sex. However, there is a significant difference in these two terms. According to the World Health Organization ([WHO] 2013), the term gender refers to "the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women," while the explanation of the term sex is "the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women. …

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