INTRODUCTION Gender stereotypes, as defined by Myers (2002), are people’s beliefs about how men and women behave. These stereotypes have been around for many years and they continue to be strong in today’s society. A major concern dealing with gender stereotypes are the effects they may have on leadership. Some research suggests that these stereotypes may present obstacles for women who wish to compete for a leadership position. Hosoda and Stone (2000) found that the actual stereotypes of men and women have remained relatively unchanged from 10-20 years ago. This means that the actual attributes that people tend to associate with men or women, such as tough or sincere, have remained similar over time. Although the actual stereotypes may have remained relatively constant, the value attached to the masculine and feminine stereotypes seem to have changed over the past few decades. For example, Werner and LaRussa (1985, as cited in Hosoda & Stone, 2000) found that the masculine stereotype was evaluated less favorably and the feminine stereotype was evaluated more favorably over a period of 21 years. From 1957 to 1978, some positive attributes associated with males were removed from the masculine stereotype and replaced with negative attributes while certain negative attributes associated with women were removed from the feminine stereotype and replaced with positive attributes. Regardless of the value attached to the stereotype, men and women are still viewed as being remarkably different from one another. Hosoda and Stone (2000) found 78 overall attributes associated with males. Twelve of the 78 attributes were considered “key” masculine attributes. These were handsome, aggressive, tough, courageous, strong, forceful, arrogant, egotistical, boastful, hard headed, masculine, and dominant. Sixty-two overall attributes were associated with females and of these, nine were considered “key” feminine attributes. These were affectionate, sensitive, appreciative, sentimental, sympathetic, nagging, fussy, feminine, and emotional. This suggests that people believe that men and women generally behave differently from one another. The focus of leadership styles has turned to transformational and transactional approaches over the past few decades (Bass, 1985; as cited in Maher, 1997). Bass furthered Burns’ view of transforming leadership to be a leadership style that gives insight into the importance placed on certain outcomes and promotes development and vision in subordinates. Bass also identified five main components to transformational leadership: charisma, inspiration, intellectual stimulation, individualized consideration, and extra effort. Burns (1978, as cited in Maher, 1997) suggests that transactional leadership emphasizes exchanges between leader and follower and how needs of the subordinates can be fulfilled. There are three components of transactional leadership: contingent reward, passive management by exception, and active management by exception. When measuring stereotypes in the leadership domain, Martell and DeSmet (2001) used 14 categories of leader behavior. The 14 categories used were delegating, inspiring, intellectual stimulation, mentoring, modeling, monitoring, planning, problem solving, rewarding, supporting, upward influence, networking, team building, and consulting. These 14 categories represent a broad range of behaviors that effective leaders should display. Leadership qualities have traditionally been viewed as more masculine than feminine in the past. Recent research (Hackman, Furniss, Hills, & Paterson, 1992) implies that to be effective, leaders must display both feminine and masculine behaviors. Hackman et al. (1992) found that transformational leadership requires a gender balance of strong masculine and strong feminine characteristics. Role-incongruent behaviors may create an obstacle for aspiring female leaders. Role congruity simply means that an individuals act in a way that is congruent with others’ perception of how they should act. The gender-role hypothesis predicts that evaluations of gender-role congruent behaviors will be higher than evaluations of gender-role incongruent behaviors (Nieva & Gutek, 1981, as cited in Rojahn and Willemsen, 1994). Because leadership behaviors are widely perceived as masculine behaviors, women may face difficulties obtaining leadership positions. The purpose of this study is to determine the effects of gender stereotypes on leadership. More specifically, the effects of stereotypes on women wishing to enter into a leadership position will be examined. I expect to find that when gender stereotypes are high, men will viewed as having higher leadership abilities than women. I also expect to find that when gender stereotypes are low, a non-significant difference will be found in the views of men and women and their leadership abilities.
Ninety-four Missouri Western State College students participated in this study. All of the participants were enrolled in one of two general psychology classes. For participating, the students received two extra credit points for the class.
A paper and pencil scale was used to assess the participant’s level of gender stereotypes (See Appendix A). This scale was constructed using selected items taken from the Bem Sex-Role Inventory (Bem, 1974). There was also a description of a person who is aspiring to become a leader, either with a typically male name, typically female name, or a typically neutral name, administered to the participants. Following the description, there were some basic questions that determined how effective of a leader/manager that the participant believed the described person would become (See Appendix B).
I first administered the description of an aspiring leader. I randomly assigned the participants to receive the male name, female name, or the neutral name. I instructed the participants to write their initials and the last four digits of their social security number at the top of the paper so that I could analyze the results. After they did this, I instructed them to read and follow the directions indicated at the top of the paper handed to them. When the participants were finished, I collected the completed questions with the descriptions. Next, I administered the selected items of the Bem Sex-Role Inventory (Bem,1974) to each participant. Again I instructed the participants to write their initials and the last four digits of their social security number at the top of the sheet of paper. After they did this, I instructed them to read and follow the directions indicated at the top of the paper handed to them. When the participants finished, I collected the completed scales. When all of the data were collected, I paired each participant’s completed scale of the selected items from the Bem Sex-Role Inventory (Bem, 1974) with the description of the aspiring leader. I then calculated all of the scores for the selected items from the Bem Sex-Role Inventory (1974) to obtain a level of stereotyping for each participant. I did a median split to distinguish participants with high stereotypes from participants with low stereotypes. Next, I calculated the scores for the descriptions of the aspiring leader for the male name, female name, and the neutral name. This leadership score was determined by question 10 (See Appendix B). Finally, I used a 3 x 2 between-subjects factorial ANOVA to analyze the results.
RESULTSA 3 x 2 between-subjects factorial ANOVA was calculated comparing the likelihood that a fictional aspiring leader, having one of three names, would be hired for a management position as perceived by the participants and who had a high or low level of stereotypes. The main effect for the participants’ level of stereotypes was not significant (F(1,88) = 1.32, p>.05). A non-significant trend was found for the main effect for the name of the fictional aspiring leader (F(2,88) = 2.4, p = .097). Finally, a non-significant trend was also found for the participants’ level of stereotypes and the name of the fictional aspiring leader interaction (F(2,88) = 1.83, p = .167).
DISCUSSION The results of the present study were inconsistent with previous research on the effects of gender stereotypes on women’s ability to obtain leadership positions. The neutral name, Pat, was perceived as most likely to get hired for the position applied for. This may be support for the gender-role hypothesis (Nieva & Gutek, 1981, as cited in Rojahn and Willemsen, 1994). The attributes that were given for the fictional character were a combination of the masculine and feminine stereotypes. This may be why the fictional names “John” and “Mary” were perceived as less likely to get hired for the position applied for. One limitation of this study is that it only included college students. If the study was conducted in a business setting, the results may have been different. If it was conducted using existing managers as the participants they could have indicated the likelihood of actually hiring the fictional character themselves. Another issue with using college students is that college students tend to be more open-minded. This may have had an effect on the results being inconsistent with past research. Using existing managers as the participants would be interesting for further research. One direction that could be taken may be to take into account the level of education a participant has. Another factor that may be looked at is the time that has elapsed since the participant has been in a formal educational setting. These factors may have an influence on the study if being in a formal educational setting leads to open-mindedness.
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