The Impact of Sexism on Leadership in Female-Male Climbing Dyads
We investigated how sexism affected leadership in mixed-gender alpine climbing-dyads. We asked whether benevolent sexism would impair, and hostile sexism would increase (as a form of resistance) women’s leadership; and whether benevolent sexism would increase men’s leadership (as a form of paternalism). A correlational study assessed reported leading behaviour of alpine climbers. Then a vignette-based experiment presented climbers with cross-gender targets, of which three were sexist (non-feminist), and one feminist (non-sexist), and assessed leading intentions depending on targets’ and participants’ gender attitudes. Findings showed that women endorsing benevolent sexism indicated lower leading intentions with targets expressing benevolent sexism (i.e., benevolent and ambivalent men) as compared to hostile sexist men. Moreover, women’s benevolent sexism negatively affected their leading intentions with men endorsing the same gender ideology. Unexpectedly, women with low endorsement of hostile sexism reported higher leading intentions with a hostile sexist man than an ambivalent one, and with an ambivalent than a benevolent man. Conversely, men intended to lead more with female targets who expressed benevolent sexism, accommodating these women’s expectations. Further, men intended to lead more with ambivalent women, than with women deviating from gender stereotypes (i.e., feminist women, or hostile sexist women – who lack expected benevolence based on gender stereotypes). We conclude that benevolent sexism likely reinforces traditional gender roles in a leadership context when men face women who fit the gender stereotype; and when women are benevolently sexist, themselves. Moreover, low hostile sexist women confront men’s hostility with higher leading intentions, as a form of resistance.