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Female leaders and their response to the social environment


  • Gangadharan, Lata
  • Jain, Tarun
  • Maitra, Pushkar
  • Vecci, Joseph


Using data from two sets of experiments conducted in rural India, this paper finds that relative to men, women assigned to be leaders contribute less than what they propose in a public goods game. We examine whether this behavior is influenced by the social environment. We find that female leaders deviate negatively from their proposals more frequently than males, when the gender of the leader is revealed and in villages with a female head assigned through an exogenous affirmative action policy. Women leaders anticipating lower economic and social costs for their actions compared to male leaders are potential explanations for observed gender differences in behavior. Our results suggest that the social environment can influence the behavior and the potential effectiveness of female leaders.

Suggested Citation

  • Gangadharan, Lata & Jain, Tarun & Maitra, Pushkar & Vecci, Joseph, 2019. "Female leaders and their response to the social environment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 164(C), pages 256-272.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:164:y:2019:i:c:p:256-272
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2019.06.001

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    More about this item


    Gender; Leaders; Governance; Affirmative action; Leadership experiment; Belief elicitation; India;

    JEL classification:

    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination


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