Confident Leader

The female boss is angry, shrill and pushy

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It’s common knowledge that there aren’t many female leaders in business in comparison to men. But it seems there are many perjorative terms to describe the small ratio of women leaders. The female boss is angry, shrill and pushy — according to the stereotypes.

A Huffington Post article discussed this issue in relation to the work of PhD student Nic Subtirelu who researched a database of newspapers, magazines and academic papers. Subtirelu found evidence of notably different words used to describe women and men leaders.

According to Subtirelu’s studies women were described as being ‘pushy’ twice as much as men, whereas men were described as being ‘condescending’ — which Subtirelu says doesn’t necessarily mean a ‘balance has been struck’.

The article says other popular words used to describe women in power include: angry, shrill, aggressive and ice queen. This is backed up by the many articles covering the firing of Jill Abramson, the former editor of New York Times in which she was said to be ‘pushy’.

Why are certain words attributed to women in power? Actually, the bigger question is why is it that there are such NEGATIVE words attributed to women in power? Why is it that women in power are seen in a negative light rather than a positive?

You can see this stereotype of female leaders in popular culture. A prime example is ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ in which Meryl Streep portrays a powerful fashion magazine editor. Her character, while doubtless a smart and successful businesswoman, is portrayed as cold, ruthless and tyrannical.

Each of these examples makes it clear there is a gender bias in business, whether intentional or not. It seems female leaders are stuck with being branded as ‘pushy’ or ‘ice queen’ or … all those other words that range from insulting to abusive.

Powerful Women

About Natalie Cupac

Natalie Cupac Journalist & Features Writer for The Business Woman, Natalie Cupac is studying a double degree of Journalism and International Studies and has previously worked for Pacific Magazines

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4 Comments

  1. Gerry T

    March 28, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    Such a stereotype. Blame the movies. Devil wears Prada did us no favours.

  2. Daniella Anderson

    March 30, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    Thanks on your marvelous post!

  3. Kenne

    June 18, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    The thing is, all of that works with female bosses.

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