Site Search
nl en fr

(Wo)men in leadership — breaking down the gender stereotypes.

(Wo)men in leadership — breaking down the gender stereotypes.

A lot has been written already on female leadership, and many hypotheses have been formulated to explain why there are (still) so few women leaders. Even today, there is still a striking imbalance between the number of men and women in leadership positions. The University of Antwerp and Hudson have explored this question together and came to a clear conclusion.

Some stereotypes

In days of yore, you might have argued that this simply reflected the fact that more men were working or that more men had a college or university degree. Nowadays, with as many women obtaining a university degree as men, this can no longer be the case. In fact, on average, female graduates obtain higher grades and take less time to graduate.

Some people believe that women should be occupying leadership positions because they believe that women are more cooperative and people-oriented than men and that they bring a different set of competencies to the table. This can lead to the point of view that the best way for women to achieve a leadership position is by adopting a different approach than men and to highlight their uniquely feminine skills.

But do we really want to put women in a leadership position simply because they are women with ‘women like’ competencies? If you think about it, are female leaders so different from their male counterparts?

Not so different after all

The University of Antwerp and Hudson have explored this question. They concluded that men and women in leadership roles have more in common than you might think. The study reveals that women in non-leadership roles scored slightly lower than men on personality traits linked to extraversion, assertiveness and emotional stability. They scored slightly higher on aspects of altruism and conscientiousness.

However, when we look at men and women in leadership positions, these classic differences in personality are much less obvious! Both men and women leaders tend to demonstrate an archetypical ‘leader personality’ focused on assertiveness, high-level strategic thinking, and decisiveness.

Even after several decades with an increasing female presence in the workplace, the same stereotypically masculine traits seem to predict the fact if women will climb the career ladder. As more men than women possess the traits associated with striving for and obtaining leadership, it could be argued that explains, at least for a part, the scarcity of women in management roles. Therefore, helping women develop more stereotypically masculine traits could be one way to enable them to advance to the higher organizational echelons.

The stereotype backlash

One problem with this solution is that many studies have confirmed that women often face a backlash when they display stereotypically masculine traits in the workplace. They run a higher risk of being perceived as bossy, arrogant, cold, “shrill,” or unfeminine. Another study showed that female bosses are judged more harshly than their male counterparts when they are being insensitive or disrespectful. And this also works the other way around: men who display high levels of ‘communal’ traits (such as sensitivity, understanding and warmth) are often evaluated as weak or overly sensitive.

Towards a cultural change

For these reasons we feel that, instead of focusing on changing women to excel in the existing male-dominated hierarchies, organizations can strive to counter gender-related stereotypes and biases. If a cultural change were introduced, people with different personality profiles, including those who display stereotypically ‘feminine’ traits, might attain leadership roles more often.

Read more about this research? Click here.

Julie Warnez - R&D Consultant

Comments are closed.



About InTALENTgence

Hudson’s InTALENTgence blog is a qualitative source of HR-knowledge. Read and share interesting stories with insights on current HR issues and trends. Blog posts are written in Dutch, French or English.


advies assessment assessment center award Baby Boomers business attitudes career opportunities competentieprofiel cv data female leadership FMCG Generation X Generation Y hr test hr tools HudsonAcademy internet based testing interview leaders Leadership management millennial personality recruitment rekrutering remote selection shift social media women Working from home 2018 wages absenteeism absentéisme Adverseimpact agile agility agilitylabs ambassadeurs ancienneté Antidiscrimination assessment assessment centre Assessment Centres attitude Baby Boomers benchmarking best practices big data bonus BPS British Psychological Society burn-out Buy-in candidate care capaciteit career guidance Caring carrière center CEO change change management c-level clichés Client testimonial Closers coaching colleagues compensation&benefits competentie competentiemanagement competenties Consumenten Corporate Social Responsibility coût CSR depressie des salaires Differences disruptie Diversity durable Duurzaam E-Commerce economic crisis économie mondialisée ecovadis emerging emerging leaders employees English Entreprise libérée entretiens vidéo Evaluatie evidence evidence-based evidence-based decisions evidence-based HR Evolutions Executive search Expected salary increase expérience participant facetime familiebedrijf Family owned business Farmers Feedback first day at work Five Facor Model flexibel verlonen flexibility flexible Future HR gender Generation X Generation Y Generational gap Generational Shift Generations generieke goals growth High Potentials Home office HR HR 2018 HR analytics HR Barometer HR Baromter HR consultant HR priorities HRtools Hudson HudsonBenelux Hunters impression Insights Interim managers interview jobinterview l'automatisation leader leaders leadership Leadership Development Learning Agility leiderschap leiderschapsontwikkeling linkedin mannen masse salariale Motivatie motivation Netwerken new forms of management New World of Work nieuwe generatie NWOW Online online presence ontwikkeling opportuniteiten opvolger participant participant experience partnership Performance performance collective performance individuelle performances performantie personality potentieel preselectie processus de recrutement psychometric test Recruitement and selection Recruitment recruitment and selection recrutement rekrutering rekrutering en selectie remote testing rémunération research resolutions ressources humaines Retail RH Rol van HR salaire salarisstudie Salary increase Salary poll Salary survey Sales management Sales persons selectie Selection Sharing skype sollicitatiegesprek Solliciteren speed stereotype Strategic networkers stress Survey sustainablity talent talent analytics Talent Development Talent Management talent mindset teambuilding tips toekomst training Trends uit variabel verlonen veranderende wereld vertrouwen video Vlerick vrouwen war for talent werving women in leadership Work Life balance workshop zelfreflectie
BPS logo federgon
BPS logo lrqa federgon
© 2011 - 2020 Hudson Global -- All Rights Reserved

Hudson has more than 35 years of experience and is the undisputed market leader in the HR consultancy sector. Every day, the Hudson HR experts use all their specialist knowledge regarding the recruitment, interim management, development, coaching or compensation of employees to support our customers so they can achieve their ambitions.


Hudson has more than 35 years of experience and is the undisputed market leader in the HR consultancy sector. Every day, the Hudson HR experts use all their specialist knowledge regarding the recruitment, interim management, development, coaching or compensation of employees to support our customers so they can achieve their ambitions.