Female, male, and mixed-sex dyads in which one member was assigned the leader role interacted and rated their own dominance throughout the interaction. The effects of gender and romantic attachment status (whether one has an exclusive dating partner or is “unattached” and free to go out with someone new) upon these self-ratings of dominance within the interaction were examined. The results showed that both leaders and subordinates perceived female leaders to be less dominant than male leaders.
In addition, members of mixed-sex pairs rated themselves as less dominant than did those in same-sex pairs. Female leaders paired with males rated themselves least dominant and unattached female leaders interacting with males rated themselves least dominant of all. Female subordinates rated themselves as less dominant when with male leaders than when with female leaders, while the effect of the gender of the leader was insignificant for male subordinates. The results are discussed as evidence of a role conflict created by the contradictory roles of “dominant” leader and “subordinate” female, roles described by the sex role stereotypes prevalent in our culture.