In this report, Catalyst analyzes responses to the open-ended questions from two previous Catalyst studies, Women "Take Care," Men "Take Charge:" Stereotyping of U.S. Business Leaders Exposed and Different Cultures, Similar Perceptions: Stereotyping of Western European Business Leaders. These new analyses allow us to explore the contours of the misleading beliefs documented in the previous reports; they also provide examples and anecdotes from respondents’ experiences. We supplement these data with in-depth interviews of 13 women working at a large U.S.-headquartered global company, all of whom held leadership positions at the time of the interviews.
Our analyses revealed that gender stereotypes can create several predicaments for women leaders. Because they are often evaluated against a “masculine” standard of leadership, women are left with limited and unfavorable options, no matter how they behave and perform as leaders. In this study we focus specifically on three predicaments, all of which put women in a double bind and can potentially undermine their leadership:
- Extreme Perceptions: Women are perceived as too soft or too tough but never just right.
- The High Competence Threshold: Women leaders face higher standards and lower rewards than men leaders.
- Competent but Disliked: Women leaders are perceived as competent or liked, but rarely both.
Gender stereotypes misrepresent the true talents of women leaders and can potentially undermine women’s contributions to organizations as well as their own advancement options.
Sponsor: IBM Corporation