Are leader stereotypes masculine? A meta-analysis of three research paradigms

Psychol Bull. 2011 Jul;137(4):616-42. doi: 10.1037/a0023557.


This meta-analysis examined the extent to which stereotypes of leaders are culturally masculine. The primary studies fit into 1 of 3 paradigms: (a) In Schein's (1973) think manager-think male paradigm, 40 studies with 51 effect sizes compared the similarity of male and leader stereotypes and the similarity of female and leader stereotypes; (b) in Powell and Butterfield's (1979) agency-communion paradigm, 22 studies with 47 effect sizes compared stereotypes of leaders' agency and communion; and (c) in Shinar's (1975) masculinity-femininity paradigm, 7 studies with 101 effect sizes represented stereotypes of leadership-related occupations on a single masculinity-femininity dimension. Analyses implemented appropriate random and mixed effects models. All 3 paradigms demonstrated overall masculinity of leader stereotypes: (a) In the think manager-think male paradigm, intraclass correlation = .25 for the women-leaders similarity and intraclass correlation = .62 for the men-leaders similarity; (b) in the agency-communion paradigm, g = 1.55, indicating greater agency than communion; and (c) in the masculinity-femininity paradigm, g = 0.92, indicating greater masculinity than the androgynous scale midpoint. Subgroup and meta-regression analyses indicated that this masculine construal of leadership has decreased over time and was greater for male than female research participants. In addition, stereotypes portrayed leaders as less masculine in educational organizations than in other domains and in moderate- than in high-status leader roles. This article considers the relation of these findings to Eagly and Karau's (2002) role congruity theory, which proposed contextual influences on the incongruity between stereotypes of women and leaders. The implications for prejudice against women leaders are also considered.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Bibliographic
  • Effect Modifier, Epidemiologic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Male
  • Masculinity*
  • Occupations
  • Prejudice
  • Psychological Tests
  • Psychological Theory
  • Publication Bias
  • Regression Analysis
  • Research Design
  • Social Class
  • Stereotyping*