The Impact of Gender-Based Stereotype Threat on Leader-Follower Relations
Date: 30 September 2013
University of Exeter
PhD in Leadership Studies
This thesis explores the effects of gender-based leader stereotypes on leader-follower relations in terms of the implications of shared identity between the leader and the followers (team and/or gender). Four experiments assessed followers’ attitudes toward their leaders when the leaders’ genders were under conditions of stereotype ...
This thesis explores the effects of gender-based leader stereotypes on leader-follower relations in terms of the implications of shared identity between the leader and the followers (team and/or gender). Four experiments assessed followers’ attitudes toward their leaders when the leaders’ genders were under conditions of stereotype threat as compared to advantage (Studies 1 and 2), no-threat (Study 3) or control (Study 4). Experimental conditions were invoked using text-based stereotype manipulations. In Study 1 (where stereotypes favoured male leaders, thus implicitly representing threat for females) and Study 2 (where stereotypes manipulated advantage/threat for both genders), undergraduates in mixed-sex teams rated team leaders’ presentations. In Study 3, undergraduates in single-sex teams (under conditions of stereotype threat or no-threat) predicted their team leader’s performance, indicated leader-follower proximity (leader’s prototypicality, leader identification and collective threat), and reported perceived self-efficacy for leadership. Similar measures were obtained in Study 4, where corporate employees selected an effective leader from their work experience, prior to exposure to stereotype manipulations (threat or control). The student studies had three main findings. First, male leaders benefitted from the ratings of high team identifiers (a) in the context of male advantage/ female stereotype threat and (b) when males were under threat relative to the advantage condition. The benefit of team identification was not evident for female leaders. Second, male leaders benefitted from female followers’ ratings under threat compared to the advantage condition. In contrast, female leaders under stereotype threat were downgraded by female followers relative to advantage or no-threat conditions. Third, stereotype threat negatively affected high team identifiers’ self-efficacy for leadership. In the corporate study, male respondents’ choice of an effective leader was more likely to be a male whereas there was no gender difference in the leaders chosen by female respondents. Drawing on role congruity theory and a social identity framework, the thesis analyses and finds evidence suggesting that stereotype threat as collective threat contributed to followers’ relatively negative attitudes toward female leaders in terms of leader-follower relations.
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