Gender, Sense of Power, and Desire to Lead: Why Women Don’t “Lean In” to Apply to Leadership Groups That Are Majority-Male

Rachael D. Goodwin, Samantha J. Dodson, Jacqueline M. Chen, Kristina A. Diekmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

We investigated why women may have lower desires and intentions to apply to become a member of a leadership group (i.e., committee) than men when the majority of its members are men. In four studies, we examined the interaction between gender and gender composition of the leadership group on leader candidates’ sense of power, desire to lead, and intentions to apply to become a member of a leadership group. Informed by research on gender, perceived power, and the model of goal-directed behavior, we found that women, compared to men, expected lower sense of power when considering applying to a majority-male (vs. gender-balanced) online leadership committee (Study 1A, N = 294; Study 1B, N = 278). This pattern observed for women in majority-male leadership committees was not, however, evident for men in majority female leadership committees (Study 2, N = 560). Furthermore, women’s lower sense of power explained why they expressed lower desires to lead and intentions to apply for a majority-male leadership committee compared to men. Finally, we found that increasing women’s sense of power increased their desires and intentions to lead in a majority-male committee (Study 3, N = 460). We contribute to understanding why there still exists a discrepancy in the number of men versus women in leadership groups despite ongoing efforts to reduce it. We hope readers will apply these findings by identifying ways to increase women leader candidates’ sense of power in order to increase women’s representation on leadership committees and groups (e.g., boards). Online slides for instructors who want to use this article for teaching are available on PWQ's website at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/suppl/10.1177/0361684320939065

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)468-487
Number of pages20
JournalPsychology of Women Quarterly
Volume44
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • gender
  • leadership pursuit
  • sense of power

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)

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