Although nowadays it is less complicated for women to become leaders of communities and organizations, stereotypes affect how females are perceived by society and how they view themselves. The Social Identity Theory explains how people describe and categorize themselves based on their social perception (Hogg, 2001). In fact, the study by Henri Tajfel showed that assigning people to groups has a powerful impact on individuals’ self-portraits and self-categorization (Vinney, 2019). The three main processes of Social Identity Theory are social categorization, identification, and comparison (Vinney, 2019). Regardless of a group’s background, members of most teams will unconsciously compare themselves with others and vice versa. Furthermore, they will primarily view individuals based on common beliefs and values, at least at the initial stages of knowing someone. Similarly, when women acquire leading positions in companies or even non-profit organizations that are dominated by men, they will likely be perceived initially as incompetent. Hence, female leaders often are forced to utilize various strategies to disprove this idea.
To overcome the problem of misperception in a male-dominated group, women can use Social Identity Theory. First of all, a woman who leads such a team should have strong self-esteem and should be able to depersonalize to assimilate with her team (Hogg, 2001). Depersonalization elicits social attraction, making people sympathize with an individual who can adapt one’s identity to the group (Hogg, 2001). Secondly, she can try to find similarities with her male subordinates, which is known as social categorization (Vinney, 2019). Indeed, women with knowledge and experience in a so-called “manly” field may elicit admiration among men. Furthermore, if a woman is interested in soccer or cars, it will be much easier to bond with the male group. Lastly, for a female leader to remain in that position, it may be reasonable to employ a social comparison process by showing that her team or firm performs better than others. Overall, women who aspire to dominate masculine groups should change their subordinates’ perceptions to eliminate common stigmas.
Hogg, M. A. (2001). A social identity theory of leadership. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5(3), 184-200.
Vinney, C. (2019). Understanding social identity theory and its impact on behavior. ThoughCo. Web.