Proportional Representation of Women and Perceptions of Leadership Roles

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Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Pamela Bacon, Psychology


According to the role-congruity theory, prejudice against female leaders arises from the lack of fit between the communion required of the female gender role and the agency required of the leadership role (Eagly & Karau, 2002). Previous researchers have suggested that the improved evaluations of female leaders over the past four decades has occurred due to the greater proportion of women in leadership positions, which has altered perceptions of either the gender role, leadership role, or both to create greater congruence between the female gender role and leadership roles(Eagly & Karau, 2002; Eagly, Makhijani, & Klonsky, 1992). To further examine this claim, the researcher of the present study varied the proportion of fictional female managers in a work group and asked participants to rate the degree to which a female manager possessed communal and agentic qualities as well as rate the importance of communal and agentic qualities for effective leadership. Contrary to my predictions, the proportion of female leaders in a work group did not affect perceptions of the female manager or the perceptions of qualities necessary for effective leadership. The results of the present study indicate the stagnancy of gender and leadership stereotypes as well as suggest that increasing the proportion of female leaders in a work group alone is insufficient in lessening the incongruence between the female gender role and leadership roles.