Women Leaders and Employee Voice in Organisations – A Critical, Gendered Perspective: Working Paper

Naznin Tabassum, Rachael Thompson

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The leadership position has long been assumed as a male domain. As role congruity theory explains leadership skills are more ascribed to men than women resulting in prejudice existing against prospective women leaders (Eagly and Karau, 2002). Nevertheless, women having proved their efficiency and are increasingly entering leadership positions in organisations (Kark, 2004). In fact, the percentage of women in senior management teams has reached 25% in 2017 globally (IBR, 2017), showing an increase of 3% since 2015 (IBR, 2015), however, the concern lies in the fact that the number of organisations with no woman at a senior level position has increased from 32% in 2015 to 34% in 2017.
Norton (2005) discussed about Friedan’s argument that restricting a woman to the confines of her household limited her opportunities and was a waste of potential talent. The movement of feminism attempted to provide independence that gave a voice to women’s gender as unique and different from men suggesting that men and women are two distinct groups of people who think, communicate, influence, and lead in different ways (McCann, 2008). The irony is women still face glass ceiling in the workplace today.
Leadership is influenced by masculine characteristics (Olsson, 2000) whilst Helgesen (1995) and Rosener (1995) debated that women’s leadership style is unique and differs from men’s leadership. Women tend to enhance social connections through conversations and building relationships whilst men are more inclined to use language to exert dominance, maintain status, and achieve tangible outcomes (Leaper, 1991; Mason, 1994; Wood, 1996; Manwa, 2002; Schein 2007; Zenger et al., 2011).
The gender differences have always been visible in behaviours of men and women. While women are assumed to be overall more expressive, tentative, and polite in conversations, men have been more commonly associated with traits such as assertive and power hungry (Basow and Rubenfield, 2003). Contrarily, Eagly and Carli (2007) proposed that women may find difficulties in pursuing leadership positions and may be forced to adopt agentic or masculine behaviours; or they are forced to adopt such styles that convinces the others of their power and effectiveness (Catalyst, 2005). In this context, with regard to relatively unexplored area (Mowbray et al., 2015), this study intends to answer crucial questions: -
(1) Do women leaders influence employee voice in their women followers or perpetuate gender stereotyping in organisations?
(2) How women leaders influence employee voice in their women followers and the role of HR interventions in organisations.
The paper goes beyond previous literature reviews on gender stereotyping or leadership and employee voice by critically reviewing existing literature to find the positive or negative influence of women leaders on employee voice of women followers. Through adopting our critical, gender perspective, as well as our application of a followership lens, we explore power differences within interactions between women leaders and their followers. We focus on the agentic practice of employee voice, a “broad and complex construct” (Gao, Janssen and Shi, 2011, p.788), to consider the presence of domination, oppression and exclusion. The paper will endeavour to provide a conceptual model of research through review of existing literature and an agenda for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018
EventUniversity Forum for Human Resource Development Annual Conference 2018: Power and possibility: unleashing the potential of HRD - Northumbria University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Duration: 5 Jun 20188 Jun 2018


ConferenceUniversity Forum for Human Resource Development Annual Conference 2018
Abbreviated title2018 UFHRD/AHRD Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityNewcastle Upon Tyne
Internet address


  • Women in management
  • Critical
  • Power
  • leaders
  • employee voice
  • followers
  • Sex-role stereotypes


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