Academic journal article Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology

Stereotyping of Effective Male and Female Leaders: A Concomitant of Gendered Workplaces

Academic journal article Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology

Stereotyping of Effective Male and Female Leaders: A Concomitant of Gendered Workplaces

Article excerpt

Stereotypes are overgeneralized beliefs about people based on their being a member of any of the social groups and/or categories. These stereotypical beliefs may be held for leaders in general, men and women in general, and for male and female leaders, more specifically. When stereotypical attributions are made keeping gender of the target in mind, they come to be known as gender stereotypes, which typically reflect the social roles performed by men and women in a given context. When stereotypes are automated for male and female leaders, this is denoted by the term 'leader gender stereotypes' in the gender literature (Basu, 2008, p.61). The managerial stereotypes that are thus, construed incorporate the communal and agentic traits. Men are typically stereotyped as possessing the agentic traits of independence, being assertive and the like; and women are more often stereotyped as having the communal traits of warm, nurturing and the like (Eagly, 1987; Eagly, Wood, & Diekman, 2000). Furthermore, in leadership research, the essence of leadership roles lies in agentic tendencies as opposed to communal tendencies, thereby making it pestilent for women to step into leadership and earn a fair evaluation. Gender stereotypes can further be understood in the light of what men and women are like (descriptive gender stereotypes), and how men and women should behave (prescriptive gender stereotypes). More specifically, for females in non-traditional occupations, the functioning of descriptive and prescriptive gender stereotypes, results in biased evaluations (Heilman, 2002; Rudman & Glick, 2002), challenging their capacities as leaders.

For centuries, the division of labor established and reinforced the present day gender roles. These dichotomous gender roles further generated the prevailing gender stereotypes of women as engaging in communal behaviors akin to warmth and submissiveness, and men as engaging in agentic behaviors akin to dominant and aggressive (Eagly,1987). Eagly and Karau (2002) proposed the role congruity theory, which states that female leaders specifically run across a 'no-win' situation at the workplace. They become victims of prejudice in two such instances; one when a female leader emerges in a male-dominated workplace leading to incongruence between prescribed leader role and gender roles; and another, when a female leader exhibits agentic tendencies, thereby causing incongruence between leader role and prescribed gender role. Prentice and Carranza (2002) stated that "Gender stereotypes are highly prescriptive" (p.269). Perceptions of competence in female leaders depends to a larger extent on how they should behave, and not on how they prove themselves as successful, in men's domain (Heilman, Wallen, Fuchs, & Tamkins, 2004; Rudman & Glick, 2004). On a similar note, Gill (2004) concluded that prescriptive stereotypes would result in greater gender bias as compared to descriptive stereotypes. In addition, there is an increased tendency of negative evaluations toward female leaders displaying masculine roles, and heightened positive evaluations for male leaders displaying masculine roles. Studies in the past have also revealed how a good manager is still described in predominantly masculine terms (Gupta, Turban, Wasti, & Sikdar, 2009; Powell, Butterfield, & Parent, 2002).

Female leaders have been continually perceived as more effective in the care-taking behaviors, and their male counterparts are perceived as more effective in action-taking behaviors (Prime, Carte, & Welbourne, 2009) further aggravating the stereotype against women leaders. Yoder (2001) explains in his work, "Leadership itself is gendered and is enacted within a gendered context" (p. 815). Bass (2000) provides further evidence that male leaders win more favorable evaluations as compared to their female counterparts, owing to the observer's biases and stereotypic expectations. Interestingly, Denmark (1993) and Garcia-Retamero and Lopez-Zafra (2006) point out that stereotype against female leaders are more typically held by females. …

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