Gender and leadership

Ellen Ann Kent, University of Pennsylvania


The purpose of this study was to see whether differences exist in the unconscious perceptions of male versus female leaders by male versus female subjects. The 100 subjects were all undergraduate students at a large private university. Approximately half the subjects were male and half female. The first part of the instrument was a projective technique in which each subject completed a story about a leader faced with an organizational dilemma. The leader was identified as male in half the story stems, and as female in the other half. Responses were organized and analyzed along four dimensions that had been developed from the literature and the results of a pilot study: Leadership Function (how the leader is described as understanding his/her role), Values and Motives (what is seen as motivating the leader's action), Effectiveness and Outcome (what are given as the consequences of the leader's action), and Identification (with whom in the story the subject most closely identifies). Results of two-by-two analyses of variance on combined scales in each dimension suggested that scores were not significantly affected by either subject or leader gender. However, there were trends suggesting that male and female subjects each portrayed more favorably leaders of their own sex. The second part of the instrument was a self-report section in which subjects answered questions that corresponded to items in each of the four scoring dimensions. Scores on corresponding items from the projective and self-report sections were correlated to compare the two techniques. Agreement was higher on items about the leader's performance than on those about his/her values or motives. In the self-report section, leaders' motives were described as altruistic and ethical rather than self-serving, suggesting more idealism than was evident from the projective.

Subject Area

Womens studies|Educational psychology|Social structure

Recommended Citation

Kent, Ellen Ann, "Gender and leadership" (1988). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI8908348.