Women and Leadership in Global Perspective
Although women’s crisis management during the Covid-19 pandemic has frequently been praised, from Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand to Tsai Ing-wen in Taiwan, it also illuminated the scarcity of systematic research about the exercise and performance of women’s leadership in decision-making and organizational processes. This limitation is evident whether we look at the local (e.g., mayors, governors), national (e.g., prime ministers, presidents) or supra- and international (e.g., the European Union, United Nations) levels of governance. It applies to both the systematic study of structural hurdles in ascending into a leadership position and the thorough analysis of women’s performance and exercise of leadership. Against this background, this section focuses on gender and leadership from a global perspective, allowing for a wide range of regions and political and civil societal arenas to be included. It conceptualizes the leadership of women at the intersection of leadership and gender studies, thereby opening avenues for both the study of the different pathways to leadership position, and the analysis of exercising leadership.
The study of women’s leadership has been dominated by two debates: first, over women’s access to and representation in positions of power and authority across the domains of society and regions worldwide, and second, over the question of whether women lead differently from men (Eagly and Carli 2007). The first debate thus refers to positional leadership, while the second addresses behavioral leadership (Müller and Tömmel 2021). The section aims to tackle research questions that relate to both themes, including what kind of structural hurdles women face in ascending to leadership positions; whether women’s leadership is different from men’s; and, if so, whether this difference is inherent to female behavior or rather the result of social construction of gender roles.
While definitions of leadership in modern societies and political systems vary widely, scholars agree that the interplay between the institutional setting, the situational factors, and the personal qualities of the incumbent are decisive for ascending into and exercising leadership. A gender perspective on this schema, however, reveals variations in both positional and behavioral leadership (Ridgeway 2001).
The conscious and unconscious societal role associations of women and men have nurtured double standards and double binds regarding women and leadership. In the pursuit and exercise of leadership positions women thus face challenges that men usually do not (Rhode 2017). While women have indeed obtained more leadership positions in recent decades, the context of women’s positional leadership points to a complex environment of often invisible barriers and vulnerable circumstances that contribute to women’s continued underrepresentation in leadership positions across the various arenas of society. These gender-based social constructions also impact on women’s performance and exercise of leadership. Although no statistically relevant principal differences between male and female leadership styles have been found that would exceed the differences between two women leaders (Eagly and Carli 2007; Carless 1998), perceptions of differences in performance nonetheless remain, often negatively impacting women’s exercise of leadership.
By addressing both positional and behavioral leadership, the section allows for a wide submission of proposals at the nexus of gender and leadership studies. Panel topics can include but are not limited to studying women leaders in social movements and women’s performance in legislative or executive positions, whether at the local, regional, supra- or international level. A timely focus will be put on women’s crisis management during the Covid-19 pandemic from a global perspective. Moreover, the study of women’s leadership in emerging economies and regions, e.g., the Arab Gulf region, will be of particular interest as well, contributing to critical studies of women leaders and female inclusion in decision-making in non-democracies. Furthermore, women leaders’ performance in considered male-dominated domains, e.g., foreign and defense policy, are also particularly welcome.
The section invites scholars to submit contributions that tackle one or more of the themes described above, either from a theoretical, methodological, empirical or normative perspective. The section seeks papers engaging with female leaders and women’s exercise of leadership covering different levels of governance, venues (governments, parliaments, civil society, interest groups, expert bodies, international organizations), and regions worldwide. It welcomes papers and full panel proposals using a variety of methods and data, including quantitative large N analyses, comparative studies, experimental research, qualitative in-depth studies, and other innovative approaches. It also aims at ensuring the participation of scholars at different career stages, of different backgrounds and regions among paper-givers, chairs, and discussants.