Does gender bias against female leaders persist? Quantitative and qualitative data from a large-scale survey
From Human Relations
Although acceptance of female managers has increased in the last half-century, negative attitudes toward female leaders still persist. For example, some research suggests that female leaders are evaluated less favorably than their male counterparts, are liked less than their male counterparts, and are penalized for adopting masculine leadership styles. This study examined women and men’s evaluations of their current managers as well as their preferences for male and female managers, in general. In contrast to other research, the results here offer encouraging evidence of changing attitudes toward female leaders, with a growing acceptance of female leaders, and serve as a reminder that stereotypes are less likely to be applied when sufficient individuating information is available.
Both the quantitative and qualitative results suggested that exposure to female bosses reduced bias against female leaders. There is optimism that the stereotypes will be reduced or disappear, and over time, the traits required for successful leadership will be seen as gender neutral, rather than being seen as incongruous with the female role.
The present study of 60,470 women and men examined evaluations of participants’ current managers as well as their preferences for male and female managers, in general. A cross-sex bias emerged in the ratings of one’s current boss, where men judged their female bosses more favorably and women judged male bosses more favorably. The quality of relationships between subordinates and managers were the same for competent male and female managers. A small majority (54%) of participants claimed to have no preference for the gender of their boss, but the remaining participants reported preferring male over female bosses by more than a 2:1 ratio. Qualitative analysis of the participants’ justifications for this preference are presented, and results are discussed within the framework of role congruity theory.
Elsesser, K., & Lever, J. (2011). Does gender bias against female leaders persist? Quantitative and qualitative data from a large-scale survey Human Relations, 64 (12), 1555-1578 DOI: 10.1177/0018726711424323