The belief that women are more emotional than men remains one of the strongest gender stereotypes held in Western cultures. Victoria L. Brescoll from the Yale School of Management explored it in depth in her 2016 paper Leading with their hearts? How gender stereotypes of emotion lead to biased evaluations of female leaders.
As Brescoll points out, nationally representative American polls conducted over the last three decades have repeatedly found that both men and women strongly endorse the idea that women are the more emotional sex. It persists and it isn’t helpful because it is widely acknowledged as being a factor in why women remain underrepresented in leadership positions. Because women are too emotional to lead the way.
Now I have been contemplating this stereotype quite a bit recently and asking something else. Are men too emotional to lead?
I will throw out a few of the reasons my mind has turned in this direction:
Now what do all of these men have in common? Aside from all having held different positions of power, in various combinations a series of adjectives unite this group of men in some of the behaviour they have displayed this year.
Jealous. Angry. Unhinged. Furious. Scorned.
"They're like miserable, miserable ghosts" Do you agree with former PM Malcolm Turnbull's assessment of Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd? Should they have left parliament after losing the top job? https://t.co/QAgWetLjxF
— ABC The Drum (@ABCthedrum) October 1, 2018
Dear Malcolm. A quick reality check on "miserable ghosts": 1st, having told the world you've left politics behind, you seem to be in the media every day talking about it. 2nd, in case you didn't notice, I left parliament for NYC 5 years ago. Why not come over for a cuppa? pic.twitter.com/1hjeIJLnDJ
— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) October 1, 2018
From seething resentment, to underhand leaking, to social media battles, to all out civil war, you could almost describe the dynamics on display between these men as bitchy. Or catty. ‘Emotional’ is just the tip of the iceberg.
And yet it’s women, we are told, who are too emotional, and erratic, to drive the bus.
On Thursday America sat through two starkly different deliveries of testimony.
Dr Christine Blasey Ford was measured and focused as she recounted the awful event that has haunted her since she was a young teenager. The world was watching her reveal her worst nightmare and while at times her voice cracked she remained calm and deferential throughout.
By contrast Brett Kavanaugh yelled, he cried, he furiously wiped his tears and he berated members of the judiciary.
Can you imagine if a woman was nominated for the SCOTUS and in her statement cried about how much she loved her dad, how much she played sports, how much she loves her kids, and how much she loves beer, and then YELLED at everyone? #KavanaughHearings
— Heather Bucha Whaley (@HeatherWhaley) September 28, 2018
One was far more emotional than the other, and it wasn’t Dr Ford. And yet, in all likelihood, the bearer of all these emotions, the very same emotions we’re told make women unsuitable for leadership roles, will still be appointed to the Supreme Court.
The double standards are bitter to take. The co-author of Women Kind, Catherine Fox, recently posed this question.
Can you imagine – for a single moment – the fall out had the former border force head Roman Quaedvlieg and the unsuccessful PM aspirant Peter Dutton been women? A minister and a senior bureaucrat accusing one another of being liars, having unstable mental health, of grooming men, of being dishonest and discredited in full view of the public?
— The Sydney Morning Herald (@smh) September 11, 2018
Considering it was practically deducted that a single female chair of a financial institute had caused the banking fiasco and ought to serve as a cautionary tale against letting women on boards, it’s not a stretch to guess the ramifications for women everywhere would have spread far and wide.
Not for Dutton and Quaedvlieg however. It’s not to say the public feud would have been pleasant or any more tolerable for them as individuals to endure but the coverage has not descended into a gender war. Their gender hasn’t come into it. They are entitled to blow off steam, hurl abuse and launch stinging character assassinations of one another, openly, without it casting a shadow on all men forever more.
It has never seemed clearer that men are inclined towards behaving badly, even in positions of power. The question I have is whether men are too emotional to lead? It certainly seems that way right now.