When are women willing to lead? The effect of team gender composition and gendered tasks

Elsevier, The Leadership Quarterly, Volume 30, Issue 6, December 2019, 101340
Jingnan Chen and Daniel Houser

It is a well-documented phenomenon that a group's gender composition can impact group performance. Understanding why and how this phenomenon happens is a prominent puzzle in the literature. To shed light on this puzzle, we propose and experimentally test one novel theory: through the salience of gender stereotype, a group's gender composition affects a person's willingness to lead a group, thereby impacting the group's overall performance. By randomly assigning people to groups with varying gender compositions, we find that women in mixed-gender groups are twice as likely as women in single-gender groups to suffer from the gender stereotype effect, by shying away from leadership in areas that are gender-incongruent. Further, we provide evidence that the gender stereotype effect persists even for women in single-gender groups. Importantly, however, we find that public feedback about a capable woman's performance significantly increases her willingness to lead. This result holds even in male-stereotyped environments.