The Fairer Sex? Women Leaders and the Strategic Response to the Social Environment

40 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2016 Last revised: 20 Apr 2018

See all articles by Lata Gangadharan

Lata Gangadharan

Monash University

Tarun Jain

Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad

Pushkar Maitra

Monash University - Department of Economics

Joe Vecci

Gothenburg University

Date Written: April 2018

Abstract

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

Gangadharan, Lata and Jain, Tarun and Maitra, Pushkar and Vecci, Joe, The Fairer Sex? Women Leaders and the Strategic Response to the Social Environment (April 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2736033 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2736033

Lata Gangadharan

Monash University ( email )

23 Innovation Walk
Wellington Road
Clayton, Victoria 3800
Australia

Tarun Jain (Contact Author)

Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad ( email )

Pushkar Maitra

Monash University - Department of Economics ( email )

Wellington Road
Clayton, Victoria 3
Australia

Joe Vecci

Gothenburg University ( email )

Sweden
767851248 (Phone)

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