In this chapter, we take a social psychological approach to understanding gender and leadership. In doing so, we explain how both the social context and people’s perceptions influence leadership processes involving gender. The theoretical approaches taken by social psychologists are often focused on one of these two questions: (1) Are there gender differences in leadership style and effectiveness? and, (2) What barriers do women face in the leadership domain? We begin our chapter by reviewing the literature surrounding these two questions. We then discuss in detail one of the greatest barriers to women in leadership: the prejudice and discrimination that stem from gender stereotypic beliefs and implicit theories of leadership. Social psychological theory helps to better our understanding of how stereotypes shape expectations people have of female leaders, as well as how they influence women’s own thoughts and behaviors via stereotype threat processes. Social psychological approaches to understanding gender and leadership reveal how gender does matter in how people respond to leaders and how leaders approach their roles, regardless of whether it ought to matter.

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Copyright © 2017 Edward Elgar Publishing. This book chapter first appeared in Handbook of Gender and Leadership.

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Full Citation:

Hoyt, Crystal L., “Social Psychological Approaches to Women and Leadership Theory.” In Handbook of Research on Gender and Leadership, edited by Susan R. Madsen, 85 - 99. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2017.