Gender Issues and Leadership—Moral Maturity

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (2005), women’s participation in the workforce increased 37% from 1970 to 2009. The report also showed that women hold half of management, professional, and related occupations. Leaders today need to be aware of the role of gender in leadership effectiveness.

In today’s workplace, gender roles can be viewed as a set of perceived behavioral norms directly associated with males or females. Most researchers argue that individual behavior is a consequence of both socially enforced rules and values, and individual disposition.

Some psychologists have identified stages in the development of moral maturity and the role of gender in moral maturity, and applied this research to leadership. According to Kohlberg (1981), a mid-20th century psychologist, moral development (physical and mental development) can be separated into six different stages. These stages are punishment avoidance, egoism, interpersonal relationships, society or law, social contract, and universal principles.

The first two levels focus on self; people at these levels choose to do the right things either to avoid punishment or to please themselves. Levels three and four focus on others; people at these levels choose to do the right things to please others around them. These others could be family, friends, or colleagues. Levels five and six focus on universal principles. People at these two stages recognize that there are universal moral principles that hold for everyone, everywhere, regardless of personal happiness or law. They choose to do the right things out of choice rather than any compulsion.

Based on his studies conducted on schoolchildren, Kohlberg concluded that people who reached higher levels (especially level six) are more morally mature than those who are stuck at lower levels. He also suggested people rarely get beyond level four. Kohlberg’s studies also stated that women were inclined to get stuck at level three—the level of interpersonal relationships, while men were more likely to be more morally mature than women.


Kohlberg, L. (1981). Essays on moral development: Vol. I. The philosophy of moral development. San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2005). Women in the labor force: A databook updated and available on the Internet [Press release]. Retrieved from hGender Issues and Leadership—Views
Gilligan (1982), another researcher in the field, opposed Kohlberg on grounds that he had used only male students to establish his theory. According to Gilligan, Kohlberg’s theory is a theory conceived by a man about how men develop morally and it may fail to say much about women.
Gilligan argued that male and female leaders often have different moral concerns. She argued that women leaders are not any better or any worse morally than male leaders; they are merely different (Gilligan, 1982). However, Gilligan’s research did not seek to establish any gender split. She found that some women leaders shared the moral concerns ascribed to male leaders, while some male leaders also shared the moral concerns attributed to women leaders.
An examination of the history of gender in leadership reveals that many researchers believed leadership to be a traditionally masculine activity. Research on gender bias regarding women’s achievements dates back to the 1970s, and has recently been supported by Shimanoff and Jenkins’s work, conducted in the early 1990s. Their research suggested that gender bias and prejudice against women still exists. Furthermore, Shimanoff and Jenkins also state that there are far more similarities than differences in the leadership behaviors of women and men, and that both genders are equally effective. Still, women are less likely to be pre-selected as leaders, and followers often evaluate the same leadership behavior higher for men than women (Kolb, 1997, p. 504).
Additional studies expanded upon group composition and gender influences. Through their research, Schneier and Bartol (1980) concluded that the number of women who emerge as leaders within a group increased as the number of women in the group increased. On the contrary, through their research, Bunyi and Andrews (1985) concluded that when men dominated a group structure, they emerged as leaders 100% of the time; when women dominated, they emerged as leaders only at the rate of expectations and on the basis of chance. Another researcher, Kolb, found no evidence that women are ever selected as leaders more often than men.
Bunyi, J. M., & Andrews, P. H. (1985). Gender and leadership emergence: An experimental study. The Southern Speech Communication Journal, 50(3), 246–260.
Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Kolb, J. (1997). Are we still stereotyping leadership? Small Group Research, 28(3), 370–371.
Schneier, C. E., & Bartol, K. M. (1980). Sex effects in emergent leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology, 65(3), 341.ttp://

3 Simple steps to get your paper done

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Place Order Down to work Paper is Ready!

Takes just a few minutes!

Best writer takes the order

Access via your account

Order Now