After studying prejudice against female leaders so often in Theories and Models of Leadership, I was sure to look out for the theory in action at the firm I working at for the summer, where both of the main partners are female. In the article we read for Dr. Von Rueden’s class by Hoffman and Musch, it was hypothesized that in order to avoid social disapproval in studies on prejudice against women leaders, participants would provide socially desirable rather than truthful responses. The broader implications of the study found that that men tended to be more prejudiced against female leaders than women are, but they also found that women have a stronger tendency to conceal their prejudice.
In my office, I have observed that male and female employees both seem to respect both female leaders equally. This could be attributed to the wider age gap between the female partners and the associates and the overall expertise of the partners- they have both been in this industry for a very long time and have garnered a lot of respect. Even when I have gone offsite for events through the firm, many high powered politicians and other businesspeople in Washington D.C. know of both of the partners and admire them greatly. I have also observed that both of the female partners do display many “dominant” or “masculine” leadership qualities such as being assertive and task-oriented. However, they also have done things more closely related to the struggles of a woman in the workplace, such as bringing their kids to work. I do not think that these qualities have lessened any of the respect that the partners receive from the associates.
However, while the respect for the female partners is great, the female associates have expressed a struggle that they face which is unique to women in their line of work. Many of the events that they attend after work for political donors are comprised of all older men. Before going to my first event, the female associates were sure to let me know that if I ever felt uncomfortable by a donor at the event to let them know immediately. One issue that many of the female associates had dealt with in the past were harassment related issues which they said they believed were definitely related to the power dynamics involved with the older, wealthy donors and the younger female associates of the fundraising firm. It would be very much less likely for these older donors to interact the same way with the two well-known, respected female partners. So, overall I found that as the female leaders I’ve observed have garnered a lot of respect through years of working, the same respect is not seen with the younger female associates who are just beginning their political careers.