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Identity challenges of women leaders: Antecedents and consequences of identity interference

Listed author(s):
  • Natalia Karelaia


  • Laura Guillén

    (ESMT European School of Management and Technology)

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    We explore the antecedents and consequences of women leaders’ identity interference related to the perceived conflict between their roles as both women and leaders. Drawing on identity development and organizational demography research, we propose that leadership experience reduces women leaders’ identity interference, whereas women’s numerical underrepresentation in organizations exacerbates it. Moreover, we hypothesize that identity processes related to collective self-esteem—personal regard for one’s collective identity and the perception of others’ views of it—mediate these effects. A sample of 722 women leaders representing a diverse range of countries and industries supported our hypotheses. We also demonstrate that identity interference reduces the psychological well-being of women leaders and undermines their affective motivation to lead. In contrast, perceived conflict between leader and female identities enhances women’s sense of duty to assume leadership roles. Importantly, women leaders’ personal regard for their female identity buffers the detrimental effect of identity interference on life satisfaction. We discuss the implications of our results for women’s advancement in organizations and the development of their identity as leaders.

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    Paper provided by ESMT European School of Management and Technology in its series ESMT Research Working Papers with number ESMT-11-13.

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    Length: 58 pages
    Date of creation: 21 Dec 2011
    Publication status: Published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 125(2): 204–219.
    Handle: RePEc:esm:wpaper:esmt-11-13
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    1. Irina Cojuharenco & Gert Cornelissen & Natalia Karelaia, 2011. "One person in the battlefield is not a warrior: Self-construal, perceived ability to make a difference, and socially responsible behavior," Economics Working Papers 1292, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    2. Bowles, Hannah Riley & McGinn, Kathleen, 2008. "Gender in Job Negotiations: A Two-Level Game," Working Paper Series rwp08-027, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    3. Hogarth, Robin M. & Karelaia, Natalia & Trujillo, Carlos Andrés, 2012. "When should I quit? Gender differences in exiting competitions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 136-150.
    4. Uri Gneezy & Muriel Niederle & Aldo Rustichini, 2003. "Performance in Competitive Environments: Gender Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1049-1074.
    5. Pamela S. Tolbert & Tal Simons & Alice Andrews & Jaehoon Rhee, 1995. "The Effects of Gender Composition in Academic Departments on Faculty Turnover," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 48(3), pages 562-579, April.
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