Female Leadership


Yannick BammensMaarten CuijpersHetty van EmmerikAnita van Gils (contact) and Bert Schreurs (Organization and Strategy)

Co-operation with VKW-Limburg (Hasselt, Belgium)

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Further information

Introduction and position in the current literature
The labour force participation of women has increased strongly and female leadership and entrepreneurship are important for economic performance. Nevertheless, EU figures still reveal persistent gender inequalities when it comes to participation in decision making, employment, and salaries partly because, although females seem to be able to progress to the middle management level, they hardly get selected for top-management functions. Nevertheless, research1 suggests that female and male managers, at least in terms of explained variance, do not differ much in leadership behaviours.

In both academic fields (organizational behaviour and entrepreneurship) leadership styles have been identified as an important variable in explaining success or failure in competitive environments. Currently, authentic leadership has been emphasized as an added value for both male and female managers and entrepreneurs. Authentic leaders are aware of their values and beliefs, they are self-confident, genuine, reliable and trustworthy, and they focus on building followers strengths, broadening their thinking and creating a positive and engaging organizational context2. However, in society, a set of widely shared conscious and unconscious mental associations seem to link men more with these traits that connote leadership than women3. As a result, women often struggle to cultivate an appropriate leadership style. As empirical research on authentic leadership style is largely lacking, this research is filling a gap.

Research questions & hypothesis
The research broadly aims to investigate whether female leaders and entrepreneurs benefit from authentic leadership and if they even benefit more than their male counterparts.

Research methods

  • Lab and field experiments to examine the effect of a (stable) authentic leadership style on followers outcomes (e.g. job satisfaction, initiative) and organizational outcomes (e.g., performance, innovation)
  • A diary study to examine the within-subjects associations between (variable) authentic leadership behavior and individual and organizational outcomes.
  • A series of experiments to investigate the possibility that women will emerge more commonly as leaders than men in settings characterized by interpersonal trust, honesty, open-mindedness, and stimulating growth – characteristics associated with authentic leadership.

Results & follow-ups
Reed Center Best Careers Applied Paper Award of the Careers division at the Academy of Management Conference, Lake Buena Vista, USA. For the conference paper: Marijke Verbruggen, Hetty van Emmerik, Andries de Grip and Christoph Meng (2013). Does-Early career Underemployment Impact future career success? A career path dependency Perspective.


  1. Van Emmerik, IJ. H., Euwema, M.C., & Wendt, H. (2008), Leadership Behaviors around the World: The Relative Importance of Gender versus Cultural Background, International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, 8(3), 297-315.
  2. Avolio, B. J., & Gardner, W. L. (2005), Authentic leadership development: Getting to the root of positive forms of leadership, Leadership Quarterly, 16, 315-338.
  3. Eagly, A. H., & Carli, L. L. (2007, September), Women and the labyrinth of leadership, Harvard Business Review, 62-71.