Gender and Leadership: a Discussion of the Leadership Labyrinth

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Gender and Leadership: A Discussion of the Leadership Labyrinth

Sheri Haggard

California State University, San Bernardino

Table of Contents


The Leadership Gender Gap: Glass Ceiling or Labyrinth?4

Human Capital Barriers5

Challenges of Gender Differences6

Prejudice Barriers7

The Feminine Advantage8



This paper explores the challenges and barriers associated with gender and leadership, particularly the labyrinth effect on the female sex. Empirical evidence is examined to define the gender gap and identify its components. Three main attributions are ascertained in this discussion in relation to the leadership labyrinth: differences in human capital barriers, gender differences, and prejudice barriers. Each attribute is defined and supported by scientific research to weigh its validity as an inhibitor for the woman leader. The research suggests that women are equally effective as men in leadership roles, and are most often limited to progressive positions due to stereotypic bias associated with gender. Women are less exposed to leadership opportunities, and less likely to self-promote and negotiate for leadership roles. Leadership positions that break gender-role congruity penalize women for their success, leaving women with a conflicting cross-pressure. Contrary to the gender gap and leadership labyrinth, research suggests that companies with a significant female population within their management positions are more profitable. In addition, recent trends in women entrepreneurship indicate that women are equally skilled in leadership as their male-counterparts.

In the United States, leadership has proven to be the masculine enterprise. While women are increasing in supervisory and middle-management positions, they are a rarity in elite leadership roles such as corporate, political, military, and other societal sectors (Eagly & Karau, 2002, p. 53). While statistics show that in 2011, women make up nearly 47% of the...