Women and Leadership- Literature Review

According to Daniel, Boyatzis and Mckee (2002), women have increasingly gained equality in the workplace and at home. Changes in gender lifestyles and roles have drastically taken place. Presently, there are men participating in the household chores such as childbearing and daily household chores. Gender roles and etiquette social rules are flexible, and there is equity in the marital relationship.  In the 21st century, women can navigate life freely and easily. In addition, a high percentage of women are presently in employment.  In the U.S about 46% of the workforce is women.  However, in the leadership roles in political sector, institutions of higher learning and corporations, women are still underrepresented. In the United States, about 23% of the CEOs are women. Studies show that a small percentage of women attain high positions in education sector. However, they are increasingly joining higher academia ranks. Presently 16% of presidents that head U.S universities and colleges are women.  Despite this, women are still perceived as anomaly when it comes to leadership positions compared to their male counterparts. Negative portrayal of women in the leadership positions affects their capabilities. For example, women are portrayed as manipulative and domineering or ineffective and soft.

The most commonly asked question is whether there is a difference in the way men and women lead.  Leadership theories are neutral in terms of gender. Consequently, studies pertaining to leadership do consider gender differences. Self-reports on women and popular wisdom identify unique leadership characteristics and styles linked to gender. On the other hand, studies on leadership and gender prove that women and men leaders behave similarly in their leadership roles. In the meta-analysis of leadership style and gender, Zaccaro (2007) asserts that there is no association between task oriented and interpersonal style. Nonetheless, social expectations and perceptions impact on the women’s leadership styles. In most cases, women show leadership characteristics particularly in self-assessment situations (Perkins, Margaret, Paul & Catherine, 2000). On the other hand, men are more leaned towards social stereotypes of self-assertive, task oriented and motivated in mastering their environment. Studies further show that in most cases women adopt cooperative, democratic and collaborative leadership style. This is different from men who prefer competitive, directive and autocratic leadership style. Consequently, even though leadership selection criteria might equalize gender difference, women are usually collaborative and different based on personality differences and social interpersonal skills.

Daniel, Boyatzis and Mckee (2002) point out that leaders are associated with particular qualities, which are inherent to personality traits of a person. Leaders are perceived as inspiring followers who behave based on the leader purposes such as talent, role model, entrepreneurial and initiative, inspirational, visionary, charisma and committed. Contemporary leadership theories emphasize the element of authenticity in leaders. Chin, Lott, Rice and Sanchez-Hucles (2008) study focuses in the integration level present in leadership research and theory and considers the issue of dynamic interplay between followers and leaders. The author takes into account the emerging, prior and current contexts, and uses them to explain the different factors that develop or enhance leadership. Zaccaro (2007) examined the 100 women who were in leadership positions. Even though high percentage of the interviewed advocated for feminist leadership style that was more inclusive and collaborative in nature, the institutions did not sanction them. Nonetheless, feminists look for leadership positions with the objective of realizing goals on social justice. This makes them to adapt transformational leadership style. However, studies have shown that the mentioned principles are at odds to status and power. Furthermore, women in most cases feel that they are constrained to adhere to institutional norms, which are mostly defined by men.

Researchers have embraced organization structure and gender-centred views. This perspective has explained why woman are still underrepresented in the top positions. Eagly and Carli (2007) used a gender-centered view, which believes that women’s behaviour and traits are not appropriate for top leadership positions. This is attributed to different factors, which are associated with women’s internal factors. For example, their inappropriate attitudes, traits, behaviours and attitudes. Drawing from the mentioned perspective, women have characteristics that are in conflict with the demands associated with managerial roles. Additionally, the characteristics are antithetical to women’s promotion to top positions.

Eagly and Carli (2007) cite that African American women have demonstrated effective leadership abilities in their positions. This is despite living in hostile environment and handling power structures that do not always advocate for their rights. Additionally, African American women have used their anger to speak what they believe in. Citing Daniel, Boyatzis and Mckee (2002), in the context of power and power, value is usually placed on fairness and trust. This approach emphasises on social justice and parity. Another study on the Asian American women on leadership roles utilizes indirect communication skills in exercising their leadership roles. In the Asian cultures, there is balance of different opposites and focus on yang and yin can contribute to the best leadership styles, which are enriched using distinct perspectives. The author identifies how hierarchy impacts on various ways that leaders communicate within the Asian community with the objective of conveying or teaching a moral lesson. The mentioned examples are a clear indication that women leaders have different views on authority or assertiveness. Therefore, they usually express their leadership skills in different ways. However, their effectiveness and competence as leaders might be defined by expectations and role stereotypes.

Zaccaro (2007) talks about discrimination as one of the factors that make women to participate in various leadership positions. Employees’ negative experiences against women such as discrimination, inequity and sexism were triggers, which made take top leadership positions (Chin, Lott, Rice & Sanchez-Hucles, 2008). Further citing Eagly and Carli (2007), discrimination further makes women to take leadership roles. In most cases, women hold has minimal opportunities or has little power for advancement.  Nonetheless, it is important to note that differences portrayed in the leadership styles cannot be explained on the basis that it is tied to victimization only. Therefore, it is important to note women leadership is not natural or as a result of women’s biological role or nature.  Rather it emerges from the women’s position in the workplace.

In conclusion, it is evident that women are rapidly taking up leadership roles despite stereotypes. However, men and women portray diverse approaches to leadership. The differences are not due to nature but different factors associated with leadership traits and theories. It is important not to criticize women based on their attitude and traits. Nonetheless, gender perspectives of leadership styles are still unclear or insufficient. Therefore, it is important to put into consideration elements of socialisation and global views. The leadership styles of women are transformation and collaborative compared to their male counterparts.  Therefore, it is important to change leadership theories and include the rise of women in leadership positions. Organisational cultures should also be accommodative to women.



Chin, J. L., Lott, B., Rice, J., & Sanchez-Hucles, J. (Eds.). (2008). Women and leadership: Transforming visions and diverse voices. John Wiley & Sons.

Eagly, A. H., & Carli, L. L. (2007). Women and the labyrinth of leadership. Harvard business review, 85(9), 1-9.

Daniel, G., Boyatzis, R., & Mckee, A. (2002). Primal leadership: Realizing the power of emotional intelligence. Harvard Business School Press, USA.

Perkins, D. N. T., Margaret, P. H., Paul, R. K., & Catherine, M. (2000). Leading at the edge: Leadership lessons from the extraordinary saga of Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition. New York: Amacom.

Zaccaro, S. J. (2007). Trait-based perspectives of leadership. American Psychologist, 62(1), 6-16.

Do you need an Original High Quality Academic Custom Essay?