Feminine leadership traits seen as add-ons, unnecessary: Study
New York : While typical feminine traits like tolerance and cooperativeness are appreciated as nice "add-ons" for leaders, it is masculine attributes such as assertiveness and competence that are valued as the defining qualities for the role of a leader, especially by men, a study says.
The finding could help explain the lack of women in positions of prestige and authority.
"Our results underscore that women internalise a stereotypically masculine view of leadership," said Andrea Vial from the New York University, US.
"Although women seem to value communality more than men when thinking about other leaders, they may feel that acting in a stereotypically feminine way themselves could place them at a disadvantage compared to male leaders," Vial added.
For the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, the team asked 273 men and women to design their ideal leader by "purchasing" traits from a list of stereotypically masculine (i.e., agency) and feminine (i.e., communality) leadership characteristics.
The results indicated that when the choice is not constrained, communality traits are valued. However, when the choice is limited then both men and women view competence and assertiveness as more of a necessity and communality as more of a luxury -- with the effect being stronger in men for competence.
To minimise negative leadership traits, both men and women preferred to curb traits typically thought of as masculine, such as arrogance and stubbornness, than those typically thought of as feminine, such as shyness and being emotional. The desire to curb negative male traits was found to be stronger for women.
Further, the study examined how a different sample of 249 men and women think of themselves in either a leadership role or an assistant role, and what kinds of attributes they would need to be effective.
The results showed that both men and women equally think they should primarily be agentic in order to be a successful leader. In contrast, they view communal attributes as important to help them succeed in low-power assistant positions.