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Women and Leadership 1


Women and Leadership:

Breaking the Glass Ceiling, Outracing the Glass Escalator, and Teetering on the Glass Cliff
Amy Gade
Fort Hays State University

In partial requirements for IDS 804: Information Literacy

Dr. Marthann Schulte
Spring 2014

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Leadership is one of the most consistent themes in life, for it is present in every society,
culture, and organization in which we interact. Whether a leader is named or one rises from the
crowd, there is some form of leadership in every situation. According to Trinidad and Normore
(2004), leadership has often been described as the most studied and least understood behavioral
process (p. 584). While we may not entirely understand if leadership is born or made, we have
identified many qualities and approaches consistent with exceptional leadership. Many would
think that these qualities and approaches to leadership are synonymous among all leaders, male
or female, however, it is actually quite the opposite. There are still many issues present in todays
society which relate to gender and leadership. While much research has been done on the
differences in male and female leadership approaches and how gender is perceived by
subordinates, there is still an evident gap in the number of female leaders in our businesses,
industries, politics, hospitals, and schools. This paper reviews the research on women in
leadership in an attempt to identify what barriers still exist in the proverbial glass ceiling, glass
escalator, or glass cliff seemingly barricading women from attaining top leadership positions.

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Leadership is one of the most consistent themes in life, for it is present in every society,
culture, and organization in which we interact. Whether a leader is named or one rises from the
crowd, there is some form of leadership in every situation. Because of its finite existence,
leadership is one of the most widely studied topics in academia. While we may not entirely
understand if leadership is born or made, we have identified many qualities consistent with
exceptional leadership. Only more recently has leadership received newfound attention, as
individuals are realizing that some leadership skills may in fact be learned or can at least be
improved upon, which may in turn help one advance in their career, industry, or education.
Hackman and Johnson (2004) explain, Leadership is a fundamental element of the
human condition. Wherever society exists, leadership exists (p. 5). They continue to theorize
that each and every definition of leadership contains an account for the universal nature of this
concept. They have even admitted that leadership can be linked to what it means to be human
(Hackman & Johnson, 2004, p. 5). While it is not guaranteed that each person will experience
being the leader, they assure that everyone will at some time be a member of the leader-follower
While leadership is a common theme in everyday life and has been studied for much of
time, the publics interest in leadership has increased dramatically in recent time (Northouse,
2004). As leadership positions and techniques change, it is important that scholars continue their
interest and research in this area. Northouse (2004) explained that people desire to understand
leadership because, many individuals believe that leadership is a way to improve how they
present themselves to others (p. 1). He also admitted that leadership is a highly sought after
and highly valued commodity (Northouse, 2004, p. 1). This desire to understand and further

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develop ones own skills, I believe has spearheaded the development of even such things as
Leadership Studies academic programs.
To better understand why leadership is such an interesting topic that can be influenced by
so many different factors like the group setting, leaders personality characteristics, or situation
at hand, it is important to understand definition of leadership. While almost every person whos
studied leadership defines it slightly different, recent scholars have worked to identify common
themes within leadership definitions. Hackman and Johnson (2004) have identified the themes of
leadership communication to include three different elements; that of the exercise of influence,
the relationship of leadership to a group context, and the emphasis of collaboration in leading.
In an attempt to define leadership with all three themes in mind, Hackman and Johnson
(2004) created a communication-based definition that claims, Leadership is human (symbolic)
communication, which modifies the attitudes and behaviors of others in order to meet shared
group goals and needs (p. 12). Northouse (2004) identifies similar themes within the varying
definitions of leadership. He, however, added the idea of leadership as a process which typically
involves goal attainment to his definition, which states that leadership is a process whereby and
individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal (Northouse, 2004, p. 3).
This definition can best be reinforced by the idea that leaders are both influencing to and
influenced by their followers, and together they strive to achieve a mutually benefiting goal
(Denmark, 1977).
Not only are there numerous ways of defining leadership, but there are also many means
to conceptualize, study, and understand leadership. These means are know as the approaches to
leadership. In order to compare the quality of leaders, one must consider the differences in these
identifying factors. One of the earliest and most basic studies of leadership looked at the leaders

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effectiveness based on their communication style; these leadership types have been deemed
authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire leadership (Hackman & Johnson, 2004). An
authoritarian leader is very strict, often using one-way communication from the top to convey
their messages. This person works to create a distance between themselves and followers to
ensure role distinctions. They are often characterized as poor listeners who are out to make
themselves look good (Hackman & Johnson, 2004). A democratic leader, on the other hand,
engages in supportive communication that facilitates interaction between leaders and followers
(Hackman & Johnson, 2004, p. 38). A democratic leader truly believes in the abilities of their
followers to think on their own and therefore trusts and supports many of their decisions
(Hackman & Johnson, 2004). Laissez-faire leadership is often termed non-leadership. Leaders
using this style take a hands-off-let-things-ride approach to influencing their followers
(Northouse, 2004). This leader avoids interaction and confrontation with followers, therefore,
allowing them to free rein develop their own goals and procedures, but as a result, productivity,
group cohesiveness, and individual satisfaction often suffer (Hackman & Johnson, 2004).
Conforming all leaders into only three varying types seems unrealistic, considering these
types of leadership do not consider a leaders approach to their followers. One of the first
systematic approaches to leadership attempted to study it in relationship to the traits of the
individual (Northouse, 2004). While this approach can not necessarily determine concrete
qualities that must be present for one to be perceived as a leader, it surely is correct in suggesting
that leaders do stand out as a special kind of people-people with gifts who can do extraordinary
things (Northouse, 2004, p. 22). A second approach, the skills approach, is similar to the trait
approach in that they both take a leader-centered focus. With the skills approach, however, focus
is transferred from innate qualities of the leader to skills and abilities that the leader can learn

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and develop over time (Northouse, 2004). A third approach is that of the situation approach,
which takes into consideration the varying circumstances in which one is asked to act as a leader.
This approach is also valuable due to its prescriptive behavior, which unlike others mentioned,
explains what one should and should not do in various situations (Northouse, 2004). Another
approach, the functional approach, considers the communicative behavior of the leader, claiming
it is the ability to communicate like a leader that determines leadership (Hackman & Johnson,
2004, p. 79). The last approach often referenced is the transformational leadership approach,
which considers satisfying the needs of the subordinate. Hackman and Johnson (2004) claim that
the appeals of the transformational leader go beyond those basic needs to satisfy a followers
higher-level needs (p. 88).
With leadership defined and the varying approaches to leadership explained, many would
assume that all leaders, male or female, fall into these categories in the same way; however, it is
actually quite the opposite. There are still many issues present in todays society which relate to
gender and leadership. While much research has been done on the differences in male and female
leadership approaches and how gender is perceived by subordinates, there is still an evident gap
in the number of female leaders in our businesses, industries, politics, hospitals, and schools.
This paper reviews the research on women in leadership in an attempt to identify what barriers
still exist in the proverbial glass ceiling, glass escalator, or glass cliff barricading women from
attaining top leadership positions.

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To research the field of women and leadership, one must first determine what it is about
women and leadership that needs to be reviewed. As more of a liberal thinker, I envision all
people to be on a level-playing field in many situations. To know that women in leadership roles
are still receiving a lot of research attention does not always sit well with me. While I am happy
to know that women are getting attention in this arena, which means at least we are at a level of
recognized leadership, it still disappointments me that this attention comes as a way of pointing
out the differences in male versus female leadership and how each leader is viewed by their
subordinates. Personally, a leader is a leader and to me their differences as it relates to leadership
approach should not be determined or deemed as influenced by their gender.
While I know that leadership is often associated with a male-orientation, I believe this
view is changing, slowly but surely. While I know that women in leadership roles is on a definite
rise, I would like to know more about where women stand in regards to leadership roles and what
barriers are still in the proverbial glass ceiling, which is still impacting or causing a slower
progression rate for women into leadership positions.
Data was collected through both brick and mortar research at the US Conn Library on the
Wayne State College (Nebraska) campus and an online search of scholarly, peer-reviewed
journal articles available through the databases at Fort Hays State University conducted in March
of 2014. While most resources found through the brick and mortar research were not scholarly,
peer-reviewed journal articles, some of the resources found will be used for supplemental
information in introductory and conclusive paragraphs. These sources will help to define
leadership and review the varying approaches to leadership.

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The online search of scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles was conducted through Fort
Hays State Universitys Forsyth Library online database search engine. Through the use of
Academic Search Premier and ABI/INFORM, using the search terms women AND leadership or
women AND leadership style, over 15 scholarly, peer-reviewed resources were found on the
topic. The FHSU Forsyth Librarys LibGuide for Leadership Studies was also considered. In
reviewing the databases suggested for Leadership Studies, it was deducted that the databases
originally selected were adequate for the subject matter being researched.
The search of women and leadership resulted in tens of thousands of sources. Narrowing
those results was essential in helping to find the most relevant topics and sources. I chose to first
narrow my search parameters to consider only studies from the United States. While I feel
research from other countries comparable in the success of business, industry, and education
could be applicable, I wanted to use only the most relative information and I believe that to be
from the United States. I also chose to narrow my search parameters by reviewing articles from
1994-2014, a twenty year time span. I feel that sources any older may not necessarily be
irrelevant, but most definitely less relevant that those more current. Because leadership is so
frequently studied, women in leadership is under constant review, so studies may be replicated
over and over again, just to see if time, societal changes, or other new studies may have affected
the research. I will reference some sources more dated, as they relate to the history of this topic. I
think it is important to also discuss where this topic originated and how the research has gotten to
where it is today.

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Discussion of Research Methods
This study draws on data collected through both a brick and mortar library search and an
online database search on the topics of women AND leadership and women AND leadership
styles. Data was limited by selecting only studies conducted in the United States and from the
time frame of 1994-2014. Fifteen scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles on studies regarding
women in leadership were found, reviewed, and categorized by research method used to conduct
the study. Of the sources to be cited in this research, 7 found were of qualitative research
methods, while 6 found were of quantitative research methods, and only 2 found cited using
mixed methods for their research. For the purpose of this discussion of research methods, each
research method will first be defined, then specific examples will be given.
According to author, John W. Creswell (2009), in the text Research Design: Qualitative,
Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches, qualitative research is described as a means for
exploring and understanding the meaning individuals or groups ascribe to a social or human
problem (p.4). The research process for this method often entails detailed, but open-ended
questions, which allow the respondents to expand sharing their feelings, beliefs, and opinions
about the subject matter. Narrative research, ethnography, and case studies are just a few of the
strategies used in qualitative research methodology (Creswell, 2009).
Quantitative research is defined as a means for testing objective theories by examining
the relationship among variables. These variables, in turn, can be measured, typically on
instruments, so that numbered data can be analyzed using statistical procedures (Creswell,
2009, p. 4). This research method is data-driven, meaning the data will be quantified into
numbers to portray the research conducted. Survey and experimental research are two of the
most common forms of quantitative research methods (Creswell, 2009).

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Lastly, according to Creswell (2009), mixed methods research is an approach to inquiry
that combines or associates both qualitative and quantitative forms (p. 4). Not only does this
research method combine qualitative and quantitative methods to collect data, but also in the
analysis of said data, which allows for stronger data than if collected by one sole research
method (Creswell, 2009). Three primary strategies for mixed methods research include
sequential mixed methods, which uses one research method to expand on the results of the other,
concurrent mixed methods, which involves fusing data from both methods to provide the most
ample research on the problem, and lastly transformative mixed methods, in which the
researcher uses a theoretical lens as an overarching perspective within a design that contains both
qualitative and quantitative data (Creswell, 2009, p. 15).
Of the qualitative studies found, many utilized surveys of open-ended questions or faceto-face interviews to learn more about how women view their role in the leadership of their
specific business, industrial, healthcare facility or educational institution, what barriers may
present themselves in obtaining positions of leadership, or how others (men or women) view the
gender equity of leadership. A qualitative study of particular interest to me, due to my career in
higher education, explored womens leadership at community colleges. The study conducted by
Tedrow and Rhoads (1999) aimed to gather data about the processes women use in constructing
a leadership identity within the community college (Methodology section, para. 1). A study
group of 30 senior-level women holding positions from director to president were interviewed
thoroughly, taped, and transcribed verbatim. The primary research question revolved around how
these women viewed themselves in their leadership role within their community college. Other
questions related to the challenges faced as women within their institutions, perceptions of any
gender issues, how these women negotiated within their organization, and also how they

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balanced their personal and professional lives. Interview transcripts were analyzed, a short
follow up interview was completed to clear any assumptions, and key themes were identified. A
literature review of definitions and conceptual views of leadership and historical views related to
women and leadership resulted in an updated approach to the differences between male and
females in leadership (Porterfield & Kleiner, 2005).
A journal article, entitled Leadership and gender: a dangerous liaison?, by Trinidad and
Normore (2005) details a review of the extant literature on how women lead in organizations
with a focus on business and education fields. Data from professional and academic journals on
business and education, pertinent websites, and textbooks were collected, reviewed, and
categorized by common themes and patterns that emerged. The article desires to provide a
theoretical perspective on womens leadership behaviours as an approach to equity in
organizations by capitalizing on female contributions (Trinidad & Normore, 2005, p. 574).
Another study focusing on women in education leadership by Litmanovitz was detailed in the
article Beyond the Classroom: Women in Education Leadership (2011). Women in various
leadership roles in education were interviewed to see why they believe there is a gender gap in
education leadership, why they were able to nevertheless succeed, and how they thought the gap
can be addressed (Litmanovitz, 2011, p. 26). Several common themes on why the gap exists and
why some succeed emerged and suggestions were given on how women can improve their odds.
Drawing on several theoretical approaches to past research, Schuh, Hernandez Bark, Van
Quaquebeke, Hossiep, Frieg, and Van Dick (2013) completed a contemporary examination of
(a) whether women and men differ in their levels of power and motivation and (b) whether
potential gender differences in this motivation contribute to the unequal distribution of women
and men in leadership positions (p. 1). In the journal article, Third Possibility Leaders: The

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invisible edge women have in complex organizations, Regine (2013) introduced a concept of
Third Possibility Leadership, a dynamic interplay of masculine and feminine skills from which
humane and genderless leadership emerges (Third Possibility Leadership, para. 1). By
interviewing women leaders who strongly represented either primarily masculine values and
behaviors or primarily feminine, Regine has developed the ideals behind a strong combination of
the two of and its benefits for success. A survey on how MBA students respond to male and
female educational leaders and which they would prefer to work for resulted in an
phenomenological analysis of the data obtained to produce a study of preferences and leader
differences (Way & Marques, 2013).
In a quantitative analysis of data from the Study of Leadership Characteristics, a
computer-assisted telephone survey of nine distinctive leadership sectors, Black and Rothman
(1998) chose to focus on leaders of national womens organizations and women elected officials
to review ideas of gender discrimination, access to education, demographic characteristics, and
issues women face. In the article, Do women make better leaders? (2004), a meta-analysis of 39
studies of standard questionnaires completed by leaders and followers deduced that womens
approach to leadership may be more effective than that of men.
Kawakami, White, and Langer (2000) reviewed past studies and found what they
believed to be contradictory results that placed female leaders in a double bind, in which
effective leadership has been associated with masculine characteristics, but women acting
outside of feminine gender roles have been evaluated unfavorably (p. 51). To evaluate how
mindfulness might free a women from gender-conforming roles, they conducted two experiments
in which women leaders were given a script to follow, in one instance the women would act
mindless, while in the other instance act mindful to the situation. The scenes were filmed and

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viewed by male undergraduate students, who completed a Leadership Inventory questionnaire
using a Likert scale. The data supported the researchers hypothesis that a mindful leadership
qualities were perceived as more important than a leaders gender.
A quantitative study, entitled Gender Trends in Senior-Level Leadership: A 12-year
Analysis of the CCCU U.S. Member Institutions, by Longman and Anderson (2011) utilized a
member directory and member institutions websites to count women in senior leadership
positions, titled vice president or higher. The trends noted over a 12 year timespan lead to
discussion and implications regarding the position of leadership boards and some newfound
goals. Matsa and Miller (2011) analyzed data on corporate board members and top executives
from a large number of publicly traded US companies from 1997 to 2009. In their article,
Chipping away at the Glass Ceiling: Gender Spillovers in Corporate Leadership, they discuss
female representation in executive leadership positions. Row (2013) reviewed research on the
impact women in top positions can make on overall company profitability. Her study reviewed
womens current place and compared the US to other strong economic countries; she also poses
the impact women can make and gives women motivation to succeed.
A mixed methods, biopsychosocial examination of womens improved place in
leadership, but consistent struggle for contentment at work provides some reasoning why women
may have a more difficult juggling act between home and happiness (Zhou, 2013). Another study
of 277 education leaders with title of Director or above was completed at Utah Valley University;
while this mixed methods approached used surveying to first quantify opportunities for
advancement, challenges related, motivation for advancement, and climate dynamics related to
diversity and gender equity, respondents were also given the opportunity to contribute to openended comments regarding their personal feelings and desires.

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Literature Review
In the very distant past, women in leadership roles were few in number; the extent of
their roles included only the occasional queen, societal leader, or head of a large family
corporation usually denoted only through inheritance (Porterfield & Kleiner, 2005). While it is
true that women in leadership roles has increased dramatically in the recent past, there is still
plenty of room for continued growth.
According to the article, Gender Differences in Leadership Role Occupancy: The
Mediating Role of Power Motivation, while roughly 47 percent of the US workforce is female,
women account for only 14 percent of top management positions and only 17 percent of the seats
in Congress (Schuh, Hernandez Bark, Van Quaquebeke, Hossip, Frieg, Van Dick, 2013). Another
important statistic shows that while women make up nearly 60 percent of college graduates, they
comprise only 16 percent of corporate executive positions. This trend is no different even in a
predominantly female industry, like the education sector, where women serve as 76 percent of all
teachers in the US, but only 50 percent of school principals. In fact, just 12 of the 50 largest
school districts have female superintendents, there are only 17 women state superintendents or
commissioners of education, and there have only been 2 female secretaries of education in the
US government (Litmanovitz, 2011). While women often struggle to reach the top, they are an
extremely crucial part of the labor force. Way and Marques (2013) note that women are projected
to account for 51 percent of the labor force grown in the next few years.
While the number of women in the work force is on steady incline, it is evident that there
are still many barriers preventing women from attaining top leadership positions. The proverbial
glass ceiling has been defined as those artificial barriers based on attitudinal or organizational
bias that prevent qualified individuals from advancing upward in their organization into

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management level positions (Freeman, Bourque, Shelton, 2001, p. 41). While this definition is
intended to be gender neutral alluding to the fact that it could be and is experienced by both
sexes, it is most often referred to in regards to women in the working world. According to the
article, Do women make better leaders? (2004), it is possible that in some organizations, a
woman still has to be more than equally qualified to beat out a man for a leadership position
(Do women make better leaders?, para. 7). To address the under-representation of women in
many sectors of the American society and business, the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission was
created in 1991 to help combat workforce inequality (Black & Rothman, 1998). Oddly enough
many of the same issues plaguing women in their reach for leadership positions in the early 90s
are still hindering women in their quest today.
Some research suggests that women may shy away from competition for promotions,
experience career interruptions due to childbearing, or simply choose to avoid the stress of the
work-home imbalance (Matsa & Miller, 2011). Other external discrimination issues include
higher performance standards, limited access to career development, and promotion of women
into leadership positions likely to fail or collapse (Schuh et. al., 2013). One of the seemingly
most difficult barriers women strive to overcome is that of gender discrimination or gender
stereotyping. While feminine traits and leadership styles have received more attention in the
recent past due to the growing number of women in the workplace, stereotypes of traditional
leaders are still decidedly masculine. Zhou (2013) states that men fit cultural construals of
leadership better than women do and thus have better access to leader roles and face fewer
challenges in becoming successful in them (p. 12). Because behaving in a feminine way has
been associated with more incompetence than male behaviors, women have been lead to believe
that in order to climb the leadership ranks, they will need to conform (Trinidad & Normore,

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2004). But its definitely not that simple. Female leaders seem to be stuck in a double bind;
effective leadership is most often been associated with masculine characteristics, but if/when
women act outside of their feminine gender role, they are typically evaluated unfavorably
(Kawakami, White, & Langer, 2000).
One significant difference in male vs. female leadership relates to motivation. Males are
most often inherently more interested in gaining power. Because power is often linked to
leadership, one could hypothesize that this desire can affect their aspiration to strive for
opportunities more often than women (Schuh et. al., 2013). This too, however, can be very
contradictory for women who are in fact interested in positions of power. Freeman, Borque, and
Shelton (2001) state that women are criticized for personal ambition, and the label a powerful
woman does not carry the same unalloyed positive connotation, as does a powerful man (p.
9). Because of this prevailing cultural undertone, women may feel the need to mask or disguise
their inherent desire to lead. Or if, and when, women decide to define power and ambition in
their own feminine way, they risk being misinterpreted as not wanting to lead or in fear of
success (Zhou, 2013).
The struggle for women, then comes in not conforming to more male-oriented behaviors,
but in the balancing of male and female behaviors. The strategy is to develop behaviors
feminine enough not to deviate from the gender role expectation, but masculine enough to gain
credibility as professionals (Trinidad & Normore, 2004, p. 577). Moreover women have to
adapt their style not just to fulfill the needs of their employees and workplace, but also to ensure
that men do not feel intimidated. This gives females a much narrower range of acceptable
behaviors in a workplace environment than male leaders (Northouse, 2004).

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Gender stereotyping, as it relates to leadership, can have an even bigger effect on women
then the silent battle it requires them to face. Litmanovitz (2011) notes that officials do not
associate character traits that are mostly possessed by women with strong leadership ability and
therefore do not push them to pursue leadership opportunities (p. 26). Even more detrimental is
the fact that due to so much talk about leadership being associated with masculine
characteristics, women who would make great leaders often dont see themselves in those roles
and therefore will not pursue these opportunities.
Another barrier for women often noted is that of access to leadership opportunities,
whether that be due to limited opportunities for promotion, a supposed lack of education, or the
deficiency of role models. Northouse (2004) alludes to the pipeline theory, in that womens
absence from these executive leadership positions could be due to not having been in managerial
positions long enough for natural career progression to happen. While womens access to higher
education was limited in the past, we know women are now pursuing higher education at even
higher levels than men. Black and Rothman (1998) note that business executives need between
twenty and twenty-five years to reach the highest levels of the corporate hierarchy (Access to
Education section, para. 1). Assuming this is similar in other organizations and professions,
levels of gender inequity could in part be explained by the apparent lack of so-called qualified
women. Freeman, Borque, and Shelton (2001) suggest that just as the pool of qualified female
leaders has finally caught up with that of males, women may be heading home. Research has
observed womens discouragement when they look up the line and fail to see others like
themselves in the highest positions (Freeman, et. al., 2001, p. 48). Northouse (2004) notes that
supportive relationships can be especially important to womens advancement. Due to their

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relational nature, women most often note individual relationships as key to their career success
versus educational or organizational practices.
One of the more significant proofs of a true glass ceiling barrier for women in leadership
today is that of salary issues. According to Northouse (2004), women earned $0.76 for every
dollar earned by men in 2001, although women managers earned only $0.66 for every dollar
earned by male managers (p. 268). 10 years later, full-time female workers earned 81 percent of
the pay of their male counterparts (Litmanovitz, 2013). Today, it is noted that women make
roughly 78 cents for every dollar earned by males (Seymour & Wairepo, 2013). According to
Litmanovitz, this pay gap, although varying in degree, permeates age, race, occupation, and
education, despite the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (p. 12). Most importantly, one should note that
women have actually regressed in closing the wage gap across many career fields. Seymour and
Wairepo (2013) note that in 1972, female faculty made 83% of what males made, today they
make 82% (p. 65). And Hymowitz (2013) suggests that, it will take almost another fifty-or
until 2056-for women to finally reach pay parity (p. 60). A sad, but very true reality for inspired
and motivated potential female leaders.
A final, significant hurdle for women leaders is the work-home life imbalance often
experienced. A stereotype often given to women is the role as head of the household. Due to this
additional role, women are often less willing to make sacrifices required of leaders than males
(Litmanovitz, 2011). Seymour and Wairepo (2013) noted in their study that women felt career
advancement would make it difficult to fulfill their responsibilities to their family and/or
children. They also stated that women indicated less of a willingness to pursue additional
education necessary for advancement (Seymour & Wairepo, 2013, p. 69). While this gender
paradigm has shifted as more women are now going to school and working, women still feel if

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someone has to stay home to run the household, it should be them. Subsequently, for those who
leave work for some time to tend to the household and later return, it is then difficult to compete
with those males who now have extra experience and potential education (Litmanovitz, 2011).
Although many women today juggle home and work, they still experience twice the
stress as their male colleagues in terms of managing household responsibilities, child or elder
care, family problems, and their part in a dual career couple (Seymour & Wairepo, 2013).
Researchers have indicated many things employers could do to help women balance the two
most important things in their life: career and family. Zhou (2013) suggests paid maternity leave,
professional childcare, and continued support of flex time, telecommuting, and FMLA offerings.
So with all the barriers women must face for advancement, why do they continue the
battle? I believe its because they can succeed, because they are capable, because they are
qualified, and because many women are willing. Can women have it all, that perfect work and
home balance? I believe so. In fact, recent research actually finds that womens multiple work
and non-work roles enhances their psychological resources, social support, and management
skills (Northouse, 2004, p. 281). Will it be easy? No. There will be constant struggle, as with
many things, but if men can make it work, cant we too?
Some feel that in order for women to succeed in masculine-dominated climates where
they face significant psychological and communicational challenges, they may have to create
their own complex language to survive (Tedrow & Rhoads, 1999). While original theorists
believed that those women who rose to leadership positions probably imitated male
characteristics, more contemporary researchers recognize themes within female leadership that
lend to the development of unique, feminine leadership styles (Trinidad & Normore, 2004).

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Trinidad and Normore (2004) said it best when they said, the integration of women in
leadership roles is not a matter of fitting in the traditional models, but giving in the
opportunities for them to practice their own leadership styles (p. 574). Other researchers agree.
While its not necessarily concluded that feminine leadership tactics are better or worse than
more male oriented types, it is true that they are just different (Trinidad & Normore, 2004, p.
According to Trinidad and Normore (2004), feminine leadership styles are described in
general terms as interpersonal-oriented, charismatic and democratic and related to gender
because of stereotypes of women as being sensitive, warm, tactful, and expressive (p. 576).
Women tend to focus on planning and organizing work and take a much more empathic approach
to leading, while placing less emphasis on the need to win at all costs (Northouse, 2004, p.
273). Differences in the styles of leadership are also often generalized, in that males are often
associated with task-oriented leadership, while females are more often associated with a more
relationship-oriented style (Trinidad & Normore, 2004).
While IQ tests used to be the sole decider of intelligence, a trait identified as key for
successful leadership, new focus has been given to emotional intelligence as an increasingly
important trait (Porterfield & Kleiner, 2005). It is due to their keen attention to emotions and
nurture that women are often equated with the transformational leadership style.
Transformational leadership is known as one of the more complex and potent types of leadership
(Hackman & Johnson, 2004). Its characteristics and qualities are a little more grey than the more
traditional leadership styles studied, like that of the transactional leader. Transformational
leadership can be defined several different ways, each of those ways focusing on the needs of the
follower. Porterfield and Kleiner (2005) state that transformational leadership entails

Women and Leadership 21

establishing oneself as a role model by gaining followers trust and confidence (p. 52). While
the article, Do women make better leaders? (2004), equates transformational leadership with
stated goals, encouraged innovation, trust of subordinates, and inspirational and motivational
As a solution to the male vs. female leadership style battle, a beautiful, very harmonious
leadership style proposed by Regine (2013) is that of third possibility leadership. Third
possibility leadership is defined as, a dynamic interplay of masculine and feminine skills from
which humane and genderless leadership emerges (Regine, 2013, Third Possibility Leadership
para. 1). The ideal third possibility leader encompasses four primary traits of: paradoxical ways,
conveners and community builders, holistic thinkers, and wielders of relational intelligence
(Regine, 2013). With a beautiful balance of masculine and feminine qualities, interactive and
charismatic leadership, the ability to see the big picture, and strong organizational relations, the
third possibility leader has every opportunity to be successful.
The thought of an androgynous leader, someone with a high degree of both male and
female traits, is not a new one. Way and Marques (2013) state that successful leaders most often
have the androgynous balance of traits that includes gregariousness, positive initiative and
assertion, social skills, intelligence, conscientiousness, integrity, trustworthiness, and the ability
to persuade, inspire and motivate others (p. 85). The most successful and effective leaders have
equal balance of stereotypical male and female traits.
So above all, why hire women? According to Seymour and Wairepo (2013), females
contribute to diversity, and diverse workplaces reduce employee turnover, utilize a diverse talent
pool, and contribute creativity, innovation and entrepreneurialism to the workforce (p. 65).
Diverse groups are always high performing groups. In fact, according to the article, An

Women and Leadership 22

Exploration of Institutional Climate and Supports Enabling Career Growth for Female Leaders
at Utah Valley University, its noted that even if a homogenous group is more capable, a diverse
group will almost always outperform a group of the best by a substantial margin (Seymour &
Wairepo, 2013, p. 65). Northouse (2004) gives even more reasons, when he states enhanced
productivity, competitive advantage, and financial performance are three reasons why developing
and promoting women leaders are in the best interest of employers (p. 269).
With little surprise to most, we know women tend to score higher on emotional
intelligence tests than men; to some surprise, however, the same data also suggests that women
may be better at managing their emotions than their male counterparts (Porterfield & Kleiner,
2005). Women have also been publicly rated above men in five of eight traits valued highly in
strong leaders: honesty, intelligence, creativity, outgoingness, and compassion, and rated equal to
men in two additional qualities of hardworking and ambitious (Seymour & Wairepo, 2013).
Furthermore, there are statistics to prove these successes. Women succeed. Fortune 500
companies with the highest number of women on their boards have a 53 percent stronger return
on equity than those with much smaller numbers of female board members (Row, 2013). Women
perform. According to the article, Women (and Men) in Leadership Roles: Building a New
Yellow-Brick Road, from 2005 to 2011, the share price of companies with at least one woman
on the board outperformed those with none by 26 percent when comparing companies with
similar market capitalization (Row, 2013, p. 32). Women have initiative. Women leaders own
approximately 44% of the 20.4 million small business in the US and have started business at
twice the rate as men (Northouse, 2004). And women have power. In the US, women influence
or control over 80 percent of decisions regarding purchasing power (Row, 2013).

Women and Leadership 23

Porterfield and Kleiner (2005) said, In a new organisational world, female behavior,
particularly collaborativeness and nurturance, have become more appropriate for managers than
the stereotypical power and control antics (p. 52). It is noted that womens effectiveness
increases as they move up the leadership hierarchy and in situations in which cooperation rather
than control are necessary (Northouse, 2004). However, these characteristics too, come with
careful caution. The main disadvantage is that the nurturing and caring image of women takes
them to occupy supportive roles whereas men occupy the leading ones (Trinidad & Normore,
2004, p. 578). Take that with a grain of salt, as I believe the benefits of female leadership most
definitely outweigh the negatives. Moreover, women who are visible leaders serve as powerful
role models in terms of normalizing womens leadership for both men and women (Seymour &
Wairepo, 2013).

Women and Leadership 24

From this body of research, it can be noted that women in leadership continues to be a
topic of extreme interest to many. This research is of particular interest to many in varying
subject areas like leadership studies, gender studies, and even management among others.
Through this research, it is noted that both qualitative and quantitative research methods
are used equally to study the topic of gender and leadership, more specifically women and
leadership types. I believe each type of research method can be beneficial for this topic
depending upon what the research is attempting to hypothesize or prove. If the research attempts
to prove womens rightful place in leadership roles, then I think quantitative research is most
effective in that it can show true numbers of women in these positions. This research can serve to
prove where women once stood in terms of leadership positions, where they are now, and where
they are seemingly headed. If the research hopes to talk about issues women face or successes
they have achieved, then I believe qualitative research can be most effective. Surveys or
interviews with open-ended questions can gain a very raw, honest approach to womens beliefs
of their own place in leadership and/or their subordinates feelings.
This research equated many common themes on the topic women in leadership, like the
growth of women in positions of leadership, common barriers women face, such as gender
discrimination or stereotyping, limited access, pay disparity, and lack of role models, how
womens leadership style should be defined, and reasons companies could benefit from female
leadership. Much of the research also discussed how women can continue to close this gender
gap and break through these barriers, or why some have been able to make it in a maledominated world.

Women and Leadership 25

Litmanovitz (2011) interviewed several female leaders, in which many common factors
were self-identified as reasons for their success, such as mentorship, support at home, role
models, and personal wherewithal. It has been noted that support is crucial especially for females
both at work and at home. Due to the innate relational qualities of females, having those work
relationships, whether it be with superior or subordinate females, is important to making them
feel in their place at work. This success and happiness at work is just one aspect of the
complexity of contentment women must experience. While many are able to easily identify with
this happiness at home, to those who place similar emphasis on the career-home balance, success
at work is can be more difficult to achieve.
Because male and female leaders each offer somewhat of different strengths, cross
training of leaders could be an important way to achieve that coveted androgynous leadership
style. According to Way and Marques (2013), each gender of leader could learn from each other.
For example, males could learn to communicate in more caring ways and how to connect more
with employees from female leaders, while female leaders could learn to be more confident and
direct from male leaders.
While I believe the types of research done on women in leadership to this point is
adequate, my personal feeling is that maybe less attention should be given to the differences
between male and female leaders. While I think its beneficial that both qualitative and
quantitative studies have been conducted, I think its time we turn a new leaf with womens
leadership studies. Personally, I feel the more we highlight these differences, the more we will
continue to compare male vs. female leadership and struggle to identify which is better. I believe
this struggle will put us farther from the desired androgynous leader and coveted third
possibility leadership type.

Women and Leadership 26

While it is seemingly easy for current and future female leaders to be discouraged by
their past and continued struggles in the working world, we are lucky to live in a country that is
quite receptive to new or refreshed ideas. According to Hymowitz (2013), the United States has
the highest proportion of women in senior management positions of any country in the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a grouping of the worlds
most developed countries (p. 60). Women need to see this opportunity and rise to the challenge
of meeting, matching or surpassing men in leadership roles.
As trends in the working world change, so should leadership styles (Trinidad & Normore,
2004). If society continues to be open to new leadership styles, women will continued to be
looked at for new and innovative leadership, as a pool of seemingly untapped potential. Should
research begin to focus more on the differences and opportunities with new leadership styles and
less on gender differences, women have the potential to be as successful and prominent in
leadership positions.

Women and Leadership 27

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