Gender differences in leadership style, job stress and mental health in male - and female - dominated industries

Authors

  • Dr Maria Gardiner,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Psychology, Flinders University of South Australia, Australia
      School of Psychology, Flinders University of South Australia, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, Australia (e-mail: marika.tiggemann@finders.edu.au).
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  • Marika Tiggemann

    1. School of Psychology, Flinders University of South Australia, Australia
    Search for more papers by this author

School of Psychology, Flinders University of South Australia, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, Australia (e-mail: marika.tiggemann@finders.edu.au).

Abstract

A number of writers have suggested that when men dominate numerically in an industry, women in that industry experience pressure to alter their leadership style, which in turn impacts on their mental health. These assertions, based largely on limited research findings and anecdotal evidence, were tested empirically. Specifically, the study investigated the impact of working in either a male- or female-dominated industry on the leadership style, stress levels and mental health of 60 women and 60 men managers. As hypothesized, women and men in male-dominated industries did not differ in interpersonal orientation, whereas in female-dominated industries women were more interpersonally oriented than men. Consistent with predictions, women did report more pressure from their jobs than men, with women in male-dominated industries reporting the highest level of pressure from discrimination. Although there was no overall difference between women and men's mental health, there was a difference in the pattern of relationships between leadership style and mental health. Women in male-dominated industries reported worse mental health when they utilized an interpersonally oriented leadership style, whereas men in male-dominated industries reported better mental health when they utilized such a leadership style. These findings suggest that both gender and the gender ratio of the industry influence leadership style, stress and mental health, and as such contribute to our understanding of the barriers to women working in senior management roles in male-dominated industries.

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