Under the influence: An examination of men's fears of women leaders


  • Alan J. Swope PhD, ABPP

    1. Alliant International University
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    • Alan J. Swope, PhD, ABPP, is professor at the California School of Professional Psychology of Alliant International University. Dr. Swope has a private practice serving adults and couples in Berkeley, California, and can be reached at aswope@alliant.edu.


Although the number of women leaders in organizations has increased, devaluation of women leaders by men is a persistent problem. The roots of this devaluation are typically discussed in terms of stereotypes and social hierarchy. In this article, I attempt to augment our understanding of this phenomenon by suggesting a psychological explanation, one that posits men's underlying fear of women as a source of devaluation. I draw from studies of men in psychotherapy and research on femiphobia (Kierski & Blazina, 2009) to flesh out the picture of how fears of the feminine still seem to affect men today. I then offer the psychological defense of devaluing and mistrusting those we fear as a tool for understanding male attitudes toward women leaders. Last, I review research on changing men's attitudes and offer a perspective on the modern workplace that integrates the social and psychological perspectives.