Are you interested in women as leaders? Then you should know about The Glass Hammer, a website about women in business with a weekly email of new interviews and topics. The email newsletter arrived today, and one piece regarding a meta-analysis of women as leaders caught my eye. Are Leader Stereotypes Masculine? A Meta-Analysis of Three Research Paradigms is in the July issue of the Psychological Bulletin.
The summary of the work refers to Catch-22, a classic no-win situation (glad Heller wrote the book so we have something elegant to call it):
The study also found that women are viewed as less qualified in most leadership roles and when women adopt culturally masculine behaviors often required by these roles, such as being assertive or aggressive, they are viewed as inappropriate or presumptuous.
So women may not be considered as leaders because they are "too nice to do the work", but when they show leadership traits they become bitches and are still undesireable.
One of the authors, Alice Eagly, professor of psychology at Northwestern, discusses how we may start to reverse bias like this:
- Make people aware of the potential bias that leads to this discrimination, overtly or unconsciously
- Women must be extra-qualified to seem as capable as a man because leadership is stereotypically male
So be twice as qualified to be seen as legitimate? Then have someone else suggest that the (mostly male) folks in charge of promotions may be biased against women and that constitutes discrimination? I mean, you can't say it yourself because then you are an assertive (castrating) bitch who no one will tolerate as their leader!
Sigh. No easy answers here.