Managing gender expectations: A competency model for women in leadership

Carol Vallone Mitchell, University of Pennsylvania


In Fortune 1500 companies, 5% of senior managers—defined as vice-president or above—are women (Glass Ceiling Commission, 1997). The statistics suggest that women are not often recognized and developed, or promoted, to these positions. So, why does gender appear to matter, and how does gender affect the advancement of women in organizations? If women in leadership roles encounter a different set of issues and expectations than those faced by men, and if some of those expectations are specific to gender, women may require some gender-specific strategies. If this is the case, what behavioral competencies facilitate a woman's ability to be successful in a leadership position and how do they differ from those demonstrated by men in these positions? Experiential and situational information was gathered from ten selected executives, five men and five women, through a combination of Behavioral Event Interview (BEI) and traditional interview. The collected information was used to: (1) identify the behavioral competencies associated with success in leadership positions; (2) assess the competency similarities and differences between gender groups; and (3) study the contextual similarities and differences between gender groups with regard to the situations, obstacles and challenges they have encountered in their leadership roles. Finally, a follow up survey was conducted with the participants to validate the competencies. The results of this research suggest that executive women develop some different competencies, or a different expression of the same competencies, than executive men. The competency differences between the men and women in this study were consistent with the expectation described by Eagly et. al. (1992) that women be more democratic and interpersonally-oriented than men. Additional findings suggest that executive men have a general discomfort with their female colleagues, and that women therefore must carefully manage their relationships with men. The implications for mentoring and for additional research are discussed.

Subject Area

Occupational psychology|Management|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Mitchell, Carol Vallone, "Managing gender expectations: A competency model for women in leadership" (2000). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9965528.