“Great Men” versus the “Female Leadership Advantage” : An analysis of gender-related perceptions of and attitudes towards selected leadership attributes

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för organisation och entreprenörskap (OE); Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för organisation och entreprenörskap (OE)

Abstract: The topic of leadership has been present in the academic world for about 100 years. In science, this is considered a rather short period of time, during which the discipline has developed enormously. Initially formulated theories and approaches have now been revised for the most part or even in their entirety. Yet, of special interest for the purpose of this research is the extremely slow development of females in this context and the lack of attention that is given to gender biased perceptions. This academic paper reviews the earliest beginnings of the subject and, as the title suggests, covers not only the history of the subject, but also the latest trends and developments in the area of leadership and gender. As it’s been said by the townsman (c.f. Anecdote), the perceptions people have of their surroundings are as diverse as the people themselves. They depend upon an infinite amount of personal experiences, shaping each and every person’s character the way they are. Therefore, during the course of this thesis, special attention is given to the role of females and especially the cognitions towards female leaders in order to address the issue of potential gender biased perceptions. By means of an online survey - which was not directed towards the general public, but rather towards persons dedicated to the field of gender and leadership - numerical and qualitative data on questions about gender-specific perceptions of leadership was collected. In summary, it can be deduced from these results, that there is a difference in the perception of leadership qualities with respect to gender. However, it should be noted that the gender biases work in two ways: The perceived differences are dependent on both, the gender of the person who answered the questions, as well as the gender of the person in the leadership position. In our opinion as researcher, the findings reveal that there are, indeed, deeply anchored, probably subconscious perceptions that seem to be associated with the topic of gender and leadership. However, all in all it can be said that the commonly assumed stereotypes of clearly male and female leader attributes do not consistently exist anymore. According to the findings of our research, the awareness of females associated with hitherto mostly male perceived leader attributes is present and will probably further consolidate in the years to come. Hence, the findings of this thesis reinforce the general positive evolution of females in leader positions. Additionally, they nurture and further strengthen growing idea of females as being naturally perceived as leaders in order to ensure fair and equitable systems for women and men in leadership.

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