The Fairer Sex? Women Leaders and the Strategic Response to the Social Environment
40 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2016 Last revised: 20 Apr 2018
Date Written: April 2018
What are the barriers to the effectiveness of women leaders? If leaders' proposals are different from what they do ("opportunism"), then trust in leaders might decrease, potentially decrease the quality of governance. Using experiments conducted in rural India, this paper finds that women assigned to be leaders behave strategically and more opportunistically than men. Such opportunistic behavior is more frequent when the leader's gender is publicly revealed, indicating the salience of social expectations compared to ingrained differences between women and men. Greater opportunism is explained by female leaders correctly anticipating different economic and social costs for their actions as compared to male leaders. Further, we find that women are more opportunistic in villages which have experienced a female village head due to an exogenous affirmative action policy. Our findings suggest that the social environment imposes significant barriers to the effectiveness of female leaders.
Keywords: Gender, Leaders, Governance, Deception, Affirmative action, Lab-in-the-field experiment, India
JEL Classification: O12, O53, C93, J16
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation