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HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Co-Director, Center for Public Leadership
Co-Director, Women and Public Policy Program
Roy E. Larsen Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Management


Over the years, the topic of gender and leadership has aroused considerable interest from organizational scholars, with research finding important gender differences across a range of outcomes relevant to leadership (e.g., Eagly & Karau, 2002; Paustian-Underdahl, Walker, & Woehr, 2014). For example, men and women differ in their propensity to attain positions of power within organizations (Gino, Wilmuth, & Brooks, 2015), with women remaining substantially underrepresented in leadership (Catalyst, 2020). Once a leadership position is attained, important gender differences emerge in how male and female leaders are then perceived by others. For instance, female leaders often suffer significant social penalties for performing traditional male-oriented roles (e.g., Eagly & Karau, 2002; Koenig et al., 2011) and, as a result, experience a greater likelihood of sabotage, criticism, and undermining relative to their male counterparts (e.g., Ely, 1994; Heim, 1990; Rudman et al., 2011). Likewise, scholars have studied potential gender differences in the behavior of leaders, with meta-analytic evidence suggesting that men and women often differ in how they lead and treat their direct subordinates (Eagly et al., 2003; Mackey et al., 2017). Despite these fruitful ?ndings and discussions, there is still much to be known at the intersection between gender and leadership. For example, little is known about how women’s cognitive processes may affect leadership pursuit. Moreover, although research has investigated potential differences in how male versus female leaders are perceived by others, oftentimes such impressions are assessed using a single behavioral indicator (e.g., anger; Brescoll & Uhlmann, 2008). Likewise, while studies have shown that there may also exist important differences in the ways in which male and female leaders treat their direct subordinates, much of this work has focused somewhat narrowly on particular behavioral (e.g., transformational leadership) or decision-making (e.g., autocratic versus democratic) styles. Recent scholarship has taken notice of these limitations, and have called for additional insight into how gender effects the ways in which leaders emerge and are perceived, and for further research on the gender differences in “leader behaviors beyond transformational leadership and those that are highly agentic or communal in both intrapersonal and interpersonal leadership processes” (Shen & Joseph, 2021). Thus, it appears we may have only scratched the surface in understanding gender differences in leadership. Accordingly, there are likely important and interesting avenues still waiting to be explored within this area of research, such as the cognitive and structural underpinnings that can inform why men and women differ in their propensity to pursue leadership positions, the complex and evolving impressions formed about men and women once they attain leadership positions, and the potential differences in the ways in which male and females lead, react to, and potentially harm, their direct subordinates. Our symposium aims to tackle these questions and deepen our understanding of gender and leadership by bringing together four papers that explore a broad range of outcomes relevant to leadership. Moreover, the papers included in this symposium will explore a diverse set of contexts, theories, and conditions that further explain why, how and when gender differences in leadership manifest within organizations, thus providing exciting new directions for future research.


Carnevale, Joel B., Rachael Goodwin, Hannah Riley Bowles, Jennifer R. Overbeck, Siting Wang, Lei Huang, Zhi Liu, Lin Wang, Mo Wang, Ying Wang, Lingtao Yu and Michael James Zyphur. "Gender and Leadership: Exploring Novel Questions, Theories, and Boundary Conditions." Academy of Management Proceedings 2022.1 (August 2022).