Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Women's Access to Managerial Positions: An Experimental Study of Leadership Styles and Gender

Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Women's Access to Managerial Positions: An Experimental Study of Leadership Styles and Gender

Article excerpt

This study attempts to test one of the explanations of the scarce representation of women in managerial positions, specifically the one advanced by "role congruity theory of prejudice toward female leaders" (Eagly & Karau, 2002), which appeals to the fact that women get unfavorable evaluations if they adopt male-stereotypical leadership styles. One-hundred and thirty-six undergraduate students participated in an experiment with a 2 (Malestereotypical vs. Female-stereotypical leadership style) × 2 (Male vs. Female leader) design. Dependent variables were leader's competence, efficacy, and evaluation in a series of traits. It was found that, regardless of sex, the leaders were considered more competent and efficient, and were evaluated more favorably, when they adopted stereotypically feminine leadership styles. Implications of these findings for women's underrepresentation as leaders in management top positions worldwide are discussed.

Keywords: glass ceiling, leadership styles, gender, female leaders

El objetivo de este estudio es investigar si, como postula la teoría del prejuicio de rol hacia líderes femeninos (Eagly y Karau, 2002), una de las causas de la escasa presencia femenina en puestos directivos es la devaluación de las mujeres líderes cuando adoptan formas de liderazgo estereotípicamente masculinas. Para ello, diseñamos un experimento en el que participaron 136 estudiantes. Se elaboró una historia en la que se manipulaba el estilo de liderazgo (estereotípicamente masculino vs. estereotípicamente femenino) y el sexo del líder (hombre vs. mujer). Las variables dependientes fueron la capacidad de liderazgo, la eficacia en el desempeño del liderazgo y la evaluación positiva o negativa del líder (medida a través de una lista de adjetivos). Los resultados indican que, independientemente del sexo, los líderes son mejor evaluados en todas las variables cuando ejercen el liderazgo con estilos estereotípicamente femeninos. Se discuten estos resultados a partir de la literatura psicosocial relacionada con el acceso limitado de las mujeres a puestos directivos.

Palabras clave: techo de cristal, estilos de liderazgo, género, mujeres líderes

The relation between leadership styles and gender has recently become an important topic of research (i.e., Barberá & Ramos, 2004; Cuadrado, 2003; Cuadrado & Molero, 2002; Eagly & Johnson, 1990; Eagly & Johannesen-Schmidt, 2001; Eagly, Johannesen-Schmidt, & van Engen, 2003; van Engen & Willemsen, 2004), generating interesting debates in the literature, both in Spain (see Ayestarán, 2003; Cuadrado, 2003; Moya, 2003; Munduate, 2003), and beyond our frontiers (see Eagly & Carli, 2003a, 2003b; Vecchio, 2002, 2003). As noted by Eagly and Carli (2003b), these studies are sometimes carried out to investigate whether the scarcity of women in managerial positions can be explained on the basis of the fact that they use less effective leadership styles than men, and sometimes, to investigate whether women use "superior" leadership styles than men's styles, which has recently been called the female leadership advantage (see Eagly & Carli, 2003a, 2003b; Helgesen, 1990; Vecchio, 2002, 2003).

As seen in the pertinent literature (see, for example, Cuadrado, 2001; Eagly & Johnson, 1990), the main styles on which classic research has focused are autocratic versus democratic and task-oriented/relationship-oriented. Autocratic leadership is characterized by the leader's making decisions unilaterally, not allowing the group members to participate. Democratic leadership is participative, consultative, and involves the group, and the leader allows and encourages group members' participation in the decisions (Cuadrado). Leaders who use a task-oriented style are mainly concerned with achieving the group goals-emphasis on achieving the task-whereas relationship-oriented leaders are basically concerned with their followers' wellbeing and satisfaction- emphasizing the quality of relations with others-(Cuadrado). …

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