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Leadership and Gender in Groups: An Experiment

  • Philip J. Grossman
  • Mana Komai
  • James E. Jensen

We conduct a laboratory experiment with salient incentives, a technique used by economists to study gender differences in leadership. We strip the concept of leadership down to its most basic elements. Questions of style and evaluations of a leader based on style of leadership adopted are made irrelevant. Our leader is an average player who is distinguished merely by occupying the leadership position; his/her legitimacy is derived from superior information about the value of the project in hand. Legitimacy is conferred on the leader from the special information possessed. Followers voluntarily choose whether or not to follow the better informed leader. The effectiveness of the leader is reduced to two simple factors: is the leader willing or not to voluntarily place herself in a vulnerable position to achieve an outcome beneficial to both the leader and her followers and do followers trust their leaders to make the right choice? We provide experimental evidence that, when the leaders’ gender is revealed to their followers in mixed groups, female leaders hesitate to lead (send a costly signal) while followers’ behavior does not indicate any gender discrimination. Such behavior is not observed among the male leaders.

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Paper provided by Monash University, Department of Economics in its series Monash Economics Working Papers with number 42-12.

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Length: 48 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mos:moswps:2012-42
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