The article was published on our blog here: https://unavsa.org/civic-engagement/u-s-womens-history-thought-piece-women-in-leadership.
For Women’s History Month, a Civic Engagement member reflects on the pressures and double standards women in leadership face. Excerpts of the piece are included below:
Last year we touched upon Jessica Salerno and Liana Peter-Hagene’s study finding that expressions of anger increase the social influence of men; the opposite effect is true for women (2015). This finding is consistent with the double bind theory. A double bind consists of two mutually exclusive messages in which meeting the demands of one will result in failing to do so for the other and vice versa. This is often a gender biased social situation that makes it impossible for a woman to make an assertive argument or stance without “failing” to maintain expected traditional social behaviors of a woman. There was a news headline quoting Hillary Clinton saying, “I had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions” that reflects how this phenomenon burdens women in leadership (Crockett 2016). Following the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Clinton has appeared in fewer headlines. However, we saw a surge in headlines targeting women in the 2018 midterm elections or who have declared their 2020 presidential campaign. This list includes names such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris. Words such as crazy, radical, angry, darling, disrespectful, and aggressive are examples of gender biased words that perpetuate sexism in our language, media, and society. Women constantly face criticisms about their behavior, personality, appearance, and other subjects irrelevant to their role and capabilities.