I'm very excited and honored to announce that some of my ideas are getting some air thanks to Harvard and the Gender Action Portal, a curated collection of causal evidence to reduce social and economic inequality for women. I've summarized the paper below and included a link to the Harvard summary. Looking forward to your thoughts and continuing the gender equality conversation!
Fix the game, not the dame:
A team gender approach to leadership equality
Across the globe, stereotypical beliefs about good leadership are largely gendered in favor of men. That is, men are evaluated as having more leadership potential than women, and men are evaluated as better leaders than women-even when performing the same leadership behaviors. Similarly, local stereotypes typically also converge in men’s favor due to the masculinity and male majority of many managerial positions. In other words, men comprise the majority of leadership positions, a gender gap that grows with increasing hierarchy, which reinforces stereotypical beliefs about men and women’s leadership.
However, leaders are not stand-alone actors-they can also be conceptualized as extensions of the group. For example, a CEO is also an employee of the company. If this proposition is true, then beyond leaders’ own gender or their gender match with individual followers, team members’ evaluations of their leaders may depend on how representative he or she is viewed to be of the group. Given the aforementioned gender biases, the growing numbers of women in entry-level and middle management positions, and the fact that gender is one of the most quickly recognized social categories, my colleagues and I tested this idea in 70 newly created teams of 927 students with leaders (more senior students) from business and economics in Switzerland.
Together with Professor Backes-Gellner and Dr. Manuela Morf, we randomly assigned male and female leaders to male majority (approximately 20% women) or more gender balanced (40-50% women) teams. After leaders underwent 2 days of leadership training and then spent approximately 6 hours with their teams, we asked team members to rate how exemplary their leader was, including showing the traits and behaviors of a leader. As expected, in male majority teams, both male and female team members rated male leaders as more exemplary than the female leaders. However, this effect was completely eliminated in more gender balanced teams. Importantly, there were also no differences in leaders’ own evaluations of their exemplifying a leader according to their team gender.
Thus, intervening at the local, team level can trump the more global, societal biases in the case of gender and leadership. Our findings are especially important given the lack of evidence that leadership training is effective or transfers to the workplace. Furthermore, female leaders often face social backlash for being too masculine or inauthentic when emulating more masculine leadership behaviors. If other organizational constraints prevent teams from being organized according to gender, managers should seek to incorporate the gender composition of leaders’ teams in their performance evaluations or 360 ratings. Finally, other more deep-level traits might also be important for team members’ benchmarking their leaders’ representativeness of the group over time (e.g., values).
Check it out here!