Underestimating one’s leadership impact: Are women leaders more susceptible?

By Scott N. Taylor
Babson College

Rachel E. Strum, Leanne E. Atwater
University of Houston

Phillip W. Braddy
Center for Creative Leadership


Over the past 20 years, women have made significant inroads into the world of leadership and management in the U.S. In fact, it is estimated that nearly 50% of supervisory and management positions are currently held by women. Yet, when we look at the inroads into the very top positions (i.e., C-suite), these proportions fall off dramatically (under 5%). Many reasons have been proposed for this significant drop off, including self-selection and discrimination. Recently, however, research has examined more subtle reasons for such a drop. For example, the notion of ‘‘think leader, think male’’ is still alive and well. This stereotype is prevalent among both men and women. While there is no research to support the notion that men make better leaders than women, it is possible that this stereotype is influencing women’s opinions of themselves as leaders. This led us to speculate about women leaders’ self-awareness. Are women aware of their leadership capabilities and their potential to serve in senior positions? Is it possible that women are less aware of their leadership abilities than their male counterparts? Is it possible that they are failing to appreciate their own talents and impact?


Taylor, S. N., Sturm, R. E., Atwater, L. E., & Braddy, P. W. (2016). Underestimating one’s leadership impact: Are women leaders more susceptible? Organizational Dynamics, 45(2), 132-138. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.ORGDYN.2016.02.007


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