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Psychol Sci. 2012 Apr;23(4):354-8. doi: 10.1177/0956797611428079. Epub 2012 Mar 14.

Can an agentic Black woman get ahead? The impact of race and interpersonal dominance on perceptions of female leaders.

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Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208, USA.


Prior research has demonstrated that the display of agentic behaviors, such as dominance, can produce backlash against female leaders because of the incongruence between these behaviors and prescribed gender roles. The current study was designed to fill a gap in existing research by investigating whether these well-established findings are moderated by race. Results revealed that dominant Black female leaders did not create the same backlash that dominant White female leaders did. Experimental evidence confirmed that White female (and Black male) leaders were conferred lower status when they expressed dominance rather than communality, whereas Black female (and White male) leaders were not. These findings highlight the importance, and complexity, of considering the intersection of gender and race when examining penalties for and proscriptions against dominant behavior of female leaders.

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