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J Appl Psychol. 2010 Mar;95(2):221-35. doi: 10.1037/a0018204.

Agentic women and communal leadership: how role prescriptions confer advantage to top women leaders.

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  • 1Management and Organizations Area, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0120, USA.


The authors contribute to the ongoing debate about the existence of a female leadership advantage by specifying contextual factors that moderate the likelihood of the emergence of such an advantage. The investigation considered whether the perceived role incongruence between the female gender role and the leader role led to a female leader disadvantage (as predicted by role congruity theory) or whether instead a female leader advantage would emerge (as predicted by double standards and stereotype content research). In Study 1, it was only when success was internally attributed that women top leaders were evaluated as more agentic and more communal than men top leaders. Study 2 showed that the favorable ratings were unique to top-level positions and further showed that the effect on agentic traits was mediated by perceptions of double standards, while the effect on communal traits was mediated by expectations of feminized management skills. Finally, Study 2 showed that top women leaders were evaluated most favorably on overall leader effectiveness, and this effect was mediated by both mediators. Our results support the existence of a qualified female leadership advantage.

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