Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Me, a Woman and a Leader: Antecedents and Consequences of the Identity Conflict of Women Leaders
INSEAD Working Paper 2012/117/DS revised version of 2011/128/DS

This paper focuses on women leaders’ self-views linked to their gender and leader identities. In particular, we examine the antecedents and psychological and motivational consequences of identity conflict, which occurs when women leaders perceive an incongruity between their gender and professional identities. Applying structural equation modeling techniques on a large sample of women leaders who represent a diverse range of countries and industries, we found that consistent with our hypotheses, women leaders’ identity conflict increased stress, lowered their life satisfaction, and caused them to construe leading as a duty as opposed to an attractive goal. As for the antecedents, our results emphasize the importance of holding a positive gender identity. We found that positive gender identity reduced identity conflict of women leaders. Moreover, compared with women in more male-dominated organizations, women in organizations with proportionally more women held a more positive gender identity and experienced less identity conflict. In contrast, positive leader identity was not related to women leaders’ identity conflict, while leadership experience directly reduced the conflict. We discuss the implications of our results for women’s advancement in organizations and the development of their identity as leaders.