"Attraction and              
Ambivalence:  

 University of Waikato
University of Waikato
 U. of Waikato Art
U. of Waikato: Art
  Gendered Perceptions
 of Power"

 Massey University-Palmerston North
    Massey University                       
                       Palmerston North

Public Lecture Presented at New Zealand Universities
Copyright © 1999 H. Lips. All rights reserved
February-March, 1999


Hilary M. Lips
      For the last several years, I have been asking, mostly through questionnaires, but also in some interviews, university students about their views of powerful people and of potentially being powerful themselves. Here is a list of what one group of Radford University students said when I asked them to imagine who they would be as powerful persons. [OVERHEAD: LIST OF POWERFUL PERSONS, USA].
 Imagine Yourself as a Person with Power

      Obviously, these students have no shortage of ambition, but are there differences in the visions of the women and the men? No man expects to marry power. No woman expects to get it through sports.  Lecture at Palmerston North The women may seem to be more helpful or people-oriented in their visions, perhaps? If so, it is not an overwhelming impression. The differences between the responses of women and men are not dramatic. However, I find that when I read further, or when I have interviewed my respondents, careful reading/listening to what the women say suggests that they have not actually made their peace with the idea of power, that they feel a great deal of ambivalence about powerful women in general and themselves as potentially powerful women in particular. Before looking further at what they say, let us take some time to look at the possible sources of this ambivalence.
      The media, at least in the U.S., are a strong source of the notion that power and femininity do not fit well together and of the notion that there is something wrong with powerful women. One example that appeared in my home state in the last few years is the reaction to the opening of the new Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership (which was supposed to balance the all-male Virginia Military Institute). The headline over an article that focused on the uniform that would be required of these young women was a blend of leadership and femininity [OVERHEAD: Not Available].
      Hillary Clinton, the woman who is by far the most likely to be listed when I ask my students and my research participants for the names of powerful women, has been criticized for years in the U.S. media as too pushy, too strong, too opinionated. Only in the last year or so, since she has become a "wronged woman" does she seem to have found favor. Attorney General Janet Reno, who is one of the most visible powerful women in the US, has been the butt of jokes for her "unfeminine" appearance. The message is clear that it is dangerous to deviate from a fairly narrow feminine script if you are a visibly powerful woman.
      On the other hand, deviating too much from a traditional "powerful person script" is risky too.  Lecture at Palmerston North An interesting reaction was triggered a few years ago by Canadian politician Kim Campbell when she first began receiving press as the likely front-runner for the prime-ministership of Canada. She had allowed her photograph to be taken, for a book about professional women, in a pose that found her standing behind screen or partition, with only her head and the tops of her bare shoulders showing above the screen. It was quite a dignified photograph, but the bare shoulders earned her the title, "Madonna of Canadian politics." In this case, "too much" femininity was used to cancel out the impression of power.
      In white North American society, and in some other parts of the world, women leaders often seem to face a double bind: If they appear too tough, they are labeled unfeminine; if they appear too feminine, they are assumed to be incapable of leadership. This double bind is presented not just by the dominant culture, but also sometimes by feminist culture, which can fall into the trap of urging women to take on leadership roles and then castigating them if they become too authoritative or too successful.
      The assumed contradiction between power and femininity may be somewhat culturally specific. For example, Patricia Parker and dt ogilvie, (1996) argue that African American women do not experience leadership and femininity as dichotomous. Nancy Adler (1996) notes that some elite women political leaders around the world have successfully emphasized certain aspects of the feminine role. She notes that Turkish prime minister Tansu Çiller asserted during her campaign that she would be the mother, sister, and daughter for the Turkish people; that Benazir Bhutto calls herself the sister of the Pakistani people; and Dominica's Eugenia Charles refers to herself as "mother of the people".
      In some countries, even high heels, short skirts, and a flirtateous demeanor may not automatically keep a woman from being taken seriously as a leader. In Argentina, prominent conservative cabinet minister Maria Julia Alsogaray unabashedly flaunted a feminine sensuality while overseeing the sale of the country's state-owned telephone system, running the state-owned steel company, and serving as Minister of the Environment (Robinson, 1992).
      At first the idea that it is not appropriate for women to be powerful may seem to stem mainly from the notion of women as less competent, tough, or decisive than men, or that a woman who is attractive cannot also be intelligent, clear-headed and firm. Researchers have been showing for years, for instance, that people tend not to think of women as "management material"-- listing the qualities necessary for a successful manager as stereotypically masculine ones .
      However, it appears that some of the negative reactions also stem, not from negative stereotypes of women as less competent than men, but from positive stereotypes of women as warm, caring people -- and as people who are especially likely to be supportive of other women. When people (and perhaps women especially) do react negatively toward powerful women, it may well be that part of that negativity comes from dashed hopes and unfulfilled expectations born of these positive stereotypes.
      My female graduate students and colleagues have often commented to me that they are more quickly and profoundly disappointed when a woman physician, attorney, or professor lets them down than when a man does the same thing. It is, they report, easier to take uncaring, insensitive treatment from a man than from a woman.
      Alice Eagly and her colleagues (Eagly, Mladinic, & Otto, 1991) have demonstrated that people actually make more positive evaluations of women than of men. Those evaluations may, they suggest, stem from the ascription of positive communal qualities to women -- qualities such as helpful, gentle, emotional, kind, understanding.
       Lecture at Palmerston North But what happens when those positive stereotypes are violated by a woman in authority? I have a friend who tells the following story about her first year of university teaching. After the first exam she was deluged with students berating her for giving an "unfair" test. Concerned, and wanting desperately to be fair, she asked her students to tell her specifically what they saw as unfair about the test. After some squirming, one student burst out indignantly, to a chorus of agreement from the others, "You come in here, and you're all NICE and everything, and you tell us to call you by your first name, and then you give us this HARD test. That's not fair.".       The research literature on teacher evaluations gives us some sobering indications that my friend's experience was far from unique: women professors who do not fulfill students' expectations that a woman will be "nice" and "nurturant" are punished with negative evaluations. For example, women perceived as difficult graders are judged more negatively than are women perceived as easy graders, but the ratings of male instructors are less likely to be related to their image as "hard" or "easy" graders (Unger, 1979). In rating hypothetical instructors, students have been found to give lower ratings to a female instructor portrayed as not socializing with her students outside the classroom, whereas socializing had no relationship to ratings of male instructors. The sociable female instructors received about the same ratings as did the sociable and the unsociable male instructor; the unsociable female instructor was rated less positively than any of the others (Kierstead, D'Agostino, & Dill, 1988). In a similar vein, student ratings of female and male instructors portrayed in a slide-tape presentation as smiling or not smiling showed a bias against the woman who did not fall into the "nice" feminine stereotype. The unsmiling man was rated somewhat more favorably than the smiling man, but the smiling woman was rated much more favorably than the unsmiling woman (Kierstead et al., 1988). These findings parallel others showing that women instructors are judged more harshly than men if they do not meet stereotypically feminine standards of behavior with respect to friendliness, student contact and support -- and that students do not necessarily give higher ratings to men who give them greater time and attention (Bennett, 1982; Martin, 1984). Interestingly, students of both genders hold women faculty to these higher standards.
      A meta-analytic study of gender and the evaluation of leaders underlines the tendency to judge women leaders harshly when they depart from expected feminine behavior. Eagly, Makhijani and Klonsky (1992) found in their overview of studies that women leaders were devalued more than men when they were exhibiting leadership styles characterized as masculine: autocratic and directive. Women and men were given equivalent ratings, however, when the leadership style portrayed was stereotypically feminine: democratic and interpersonally oriented. As they note, their findings parallel those on conformity and status in small groups explored by Ridegeway many years ago (1982): friendly, cooperative, interpersonally-oriented behavior enhanced women's status and their influence over other group members but had little or not impact on men's status and influence. Ridgeway speculated that the stereotypically feminine behavior demonstrated women's group-oriented motivation and their lack of self-aggrandizing motives. Men did not have to demonstrate this because group members saw them as having an inherent right to lead!
      Women in position of power or authority seem well aware of the need to balance their power with good interpersonal relations. The women in leadership workshops that I facilitated a few years ago listed such skill learning objectives as: how to "be a leader without being pushy," "how to influence without causing negative reactions," "how to monitor others' perceptions of you while you influence", how to be better at "communication with regard to being more powerful and less female," "making your male peers more receptive to your ideas and expertise without feeling threatened."
      I have focused on attitudes toward powerful women; how are these attitudes conveyed? In a telling laboratory study, Dore Butler and Florence Geis (1990) trained female and male confederates to try to become the leaders in mixed-gender four-person groups. The males and females used the same scripts, made the same suggestions, using the same words, and followed similar tactics in trying to get the other group members to follow their lead. What Butler and Geis found was that women trying to take leadership of the groups became the targets of nonverbal disapproval. People frowned at them as they talked -- and the more they talked, the more the other group members frowned! When men, using the same script as the women, tried to take leadership of their assigned groups, the nonverbal reactions were much more favorable. Their suggestions (the same suggestions, remember) were greeted with smiles and nods, not frowns. It appeared that group members were made uncomfortable by the idea of a woman taking charge of mixed gender group -- although these research participants said, when asked, that they had nothing against female leaders, and they were not aware of their nonverbal discouragement of the female leader. The negative nonverbal reactions to would-be female leaders were displayed by both women and men. It appears that people are not always aware of their negative reactions to female leaders.
      Lecture at Palmerston North There has been much discussion recently about the differing interaction styles favored by women and men in this culture. Eagly and Johnson's (1990) meta-analytic study of gender and leadership style showed that, on the average, women tend to lead in a more democratic and less autocratic style than men. Eleanor Maccoby (1990) has written about the way that girls and boys, playing in same-sex groups, develop habits of interaction that can be characterized, respectively, as "enabling" and "inhibiting." Girls, she says, develop communication styles that involve a lot of turn-taking, listening, and supportive reactions to other speakers. Boys develop styles that involve competition for the floor, interruptions, and open disagreement with other speakers.
      Can we gain any insight about women's reactions to powerful women from the observations of these researchers? Perhaps. Eagly and Johnson (1990) suggest that disapproval is directed specifically at women leaders who violate gender expectations by leading in and autocratic and directive manner BECAUSE such a leadership style by a woman is particularly disruptive to expected patterns of gender deference.
      Do young women moving toward the goal of a powerful position sense the difficulties inherent in the evaluations of powerful women? Are they aware of the tightrope that powerful women have to walk: balancing power and influence with connection and relationships in order to sustain the approval of those around them?
      I began looking at these questions be examining the responses of 12 young women who participated in a pilot study of attitudes toward power and powerful women. They each filled out an open-ended questionnaire about these issues and then participated in a small-group discussion which was taped and later transcribed and analyzed for themes. I will present their responses in 3 frameworks: reactions to powerful women at a distance; reactions to powerful women in their own lives; their own articulated "possible selves" as powerful women. I think what you will see from their words is that their views of power and of powerful women are complex and multilayered. They are aware of the stereotypes of powerful women, but they use them nonetheless. They like the idea of power, but it makes them very nervous.

Powerful women at a distance:
A. Great Expectations/Admiration:

      The following comments are representative of this very common theme. The women in this sample obviously knew that being a powerful woman was hard work!

 

"Powerful women have had to work harder than men to get their power."
"powerful women have more to prove"
"Powerful women do not use their powerful position to get over an other"
"women have less power trips. They don't do something just to feel or see their power"
"more than likely women had to struggle more than men"
"a powerful woman encompasses more to me. She is strong and emotional"
"women have to possess an inner strength to fight the prejudices against them to gain power"
"powerful women ... are like role models. Everyone needs someone to look up to and help them strive in the right direction for the future"
"they [are] .. someone to look up to , and a woman understands another woman better than any man can"

B. Low Esteem/ Suspicion
      On the other hand, powerful women seemed to make these young women nervous and uncomfortable. Here are some of the things they said:

 

"Women go overboard about using power" "In some situations [women] use their power more on males. As if they're saying 'I've got this power; I'm going to use it' "Bitchy. ... Have problems getting others to accept their control" "[Powerful women are] .. nicer to the males. Maybe they want their acceptance more. It's like they needed the approval of the males more than the females. It's like they need to prove themselves to the males"

Powerful Women in participant's own lives:
A. Competition/Threat

      There were many comments about the competitiveness among women. In particular, these young women said, in a variety of ways, that they felt competitive with powerful women, but not with powerful men.

 

"women are so competitive"
"..would much rather have a dominating male boss than a dominating female boss... Accept it more"
"when a male teacher uses power it's ok... when female teachers use power, it's like they thought they were better than me... makes me feel competitive...that use of power is more expected of a man"
"[I] .. accepted it more when my male boss yelled at me [than when my female boss did]. It's like .. he' my boss, I have to do it..."
"women using power ... they're putting me down ... think they're better than me. A woman boss must treat me as part of the team. Not so necessary for a man [boss]."
"Men [supervisors] treat women more sensitively than women do. It's like they think 'I'm talking to a women. I have to watch myself'. They're harsher with guys."
"where my mom works ... the women below her are petty and picky, and always crying ... if one woman has a really good position, they're going to get jealous and try to stab her in the back"

 


B. Help/Support
      Quite a few of the women were very appreciative of special help they had received from powerful women.

 

"[one woman] uses power with me. She helps me make decisions ... a helping power, not a controlling power"
"she was smart, but never made me feel dumb..."
"she was there when I needed someone to talk to"
"she helped me gain self-confidence, as well as some power of my own....she allowed herself to help me by getting me to help myself"

C. Ambivalence about power relationships that are "personal"
      Finally, there were a number of comments about the difficulty of "knowing where one stands" with a powerful woman. Are you her friend? Or is she someone you have to "watch out for"? The attempts of women in authority to maintain a sense of connection and caring in their relationships with their subordinates and students may lead to confusion.

 

"With men [teachers] it's almost nonpersonal, so you keep your bubble. A woman ... (groans, laughter) ... men keep it at a distance ... it's like, this is your job, this is my job. ... with women it's like, this is your job, but if you get on my nerves or if I'm cranky or if I'm having a bad day...they're gonna like, take their personal opinions out on you in a professional way...."
"women take everything so personally. ... they think "she doesn't like me ... men don't take it that way"

Articulation of powerful possible selves:
      Recently, some researchers have turned their attention to investigating the notion of "possible selves" -- personalized representations of one's self in various future states (Markus & Nurius, 1986; Cross & Markus, 1991). A given individual may have numerous possible selves -- many visions of her/himself that seem possible under particular circumstances. These possible selves may cover a variety of domains, such as career, relationships, physical wellbeing, and leisure, and may be positive (eg. the famous author self, the lottery-winning self, the happily married self, the strong and healthy self) or negative (eg. the failed student self, the poverty-stricken self, the lonely and isolated self, the frail and sickly self).
      Possible selves are profoundly social and cultural as well as individual. Theoretically, individuals construct their possible selves through social comparison and the observation of models. For instance, Jenny Shipley=s role as Prime Minister may have helped to create and nurture a new possible self for New Zealand girls and women: that of a political leader. In constructing their possible selves individuals may be shaping the direction of their own future development. Once a possible self is imagined, the individual may take behavioral steps to actualize that possibility.
      One of the most intriguing aspects of the study of possible selves is that these selves may serve as motivators, providing a specific image or vision attached to an individual's desire for competence, affiliation, success. A young girl who can envision herself as a research scientist, for instance, is likely to investigate what she would need to do in order to actualize that goal. Conversely, the absence of a particular possible self may blunt or derail the efforts or ambitions of individuals, even if they have the skills and ability necessary to reach a particular goal. A female college student who is succeeding at and enjoying her courses in mathematics, the physical sciences, and engineering, but who says "I just can't see myself as an engineer," is not likely to persevere in engineering.
      I asked the young women in my study to articulate their possible selves as powerful women, and also as powerful women in three specific roles: CEO of a major corporation, U.S. Senator, and Head Scientist in charge of a large, important research team. The themes that leapt out at me from their words are these:

A. Importance of being fair, ":nice"
      These young women did not want to be powerful if it meant they would not be liked, perceived as nice people.

 

"People could always ask me anything. I would take care of them. I would be their security.">BR> "I would definitely get to know all of the members of the company. I would try to make the people want to come to work every day"
"I would be very understanding and fair"
"I would be caring, willing to listen and work with the people"
"I would be kind and really respect my co-workers...hardworking, intelligent, kind, patient and feminine"

B. Difficulty of being liked/ maintaining relationships
      These women worried that they would not have time, or perhaps inclination, to cultivate relationships if they held powerful positions.

 

"the work would get a little depressing because probably would have no kids -- only husband"
"would probably get a little out of touch with peers socially"
"I would have no life!"
"I would feel alone ... no friendships with other employees"

C. Enjoyment of being "in charge"       They did, however, enjoy the image of themselves as people who would be able to change things, to make a difference.

 

"I would like the power to be able to make a difference"
"I would like being in control of an important company"
"I would like the image of myself and the success associated with my role.... I would like the respect"
"I would like being powerful in decision-making situations"

D. Difficulty of being strong enough
      Several of them worried about being strong or tough enough to stay in control.

 

"I just feel like to be powerful you have to be able to let people know you mean business. I'm just not loud enough and harsh enough. It was really hard for me to imagine being in control and not looking up to somebody else."
"I would be a manly looking woman that feels like I am in charge...I don't want anyone thinking I am easy to run over"
"I would feel awkward telling people what I want done. I'd rather do it myself"

E. Importance of being able to help
      There were many comments that suggested that the justification for holding power lay in the ability to help others:

 

"I would discover cures for terminal diseases..."
"I like the chance of helping others..."
"I would do my best for the people..."
"..Try to find the cures for all the deadly diseases out there"

F. Worry over responsibility, blame
      Some respondents worried about the consequences of failure, of holding the ultimate responsibility for outcomes.

 

"the responsibility is scary"
"I hate to be the blame for the company failing if that was to happen"
"I would dislike the responsibility over such an important group of people"

      The ambivalence of these young women toward power is obvious in their responses. They see, realistically, that powerful women can create strong negative reactions in others, unless they are very, very careful. I wondered if women=s reactions differed from men=s in this respect, and I wondered if I could pinpoint some of the sources of the ambivalence toward power, and so I set out to examine these issues systematically with a larger group of women and a comparison group of men.

RU(1) Study
      The respondents were Radford University undergraduates (33 women and 30 men) with a mean age of just over 21 years. The sample was 92% single, and in terms of race/ethnicity, about 78% European-American/white, 6% African-American, 9% Asian-American, and 7% other groups.
      Each participant completed a long, mainly open-ended questionnaire developed on the basis of the pilot research. It begins by providing a definition of power ("the capacity to have an influence, or an inmpact, on other people") and a request that the respondent try to imagine her/himself as a person with power ("Imagine yourself as a person with power. What or who would you be?"). The respondent was then asked to "imagine what you would be like if you were the person you have imagined. What would you be like? What would you do? How would you look? How would you feel? How would you act?" and to write down her/his reactions.
      Participants were then asked to imagine themselves in three particular powerful roles: CEO or president of a large company, holder of an important political leadership position, and director of an important scientific research center, and to write about what they would be like as holders of such positions. In each case, they were also asked to use a 5-point scale to rate the possibility that they would actually become the person they have imagined. In the latter 3 cases, they were also asked to rate how positive this image of themselves was and to state what they would like and dislike about the position. At the end of this section, they were asked which of the 3 possibilities they had the most difficulty imagining, and why.
      The second part of the questionnaire asked the respondents to list powerful persons, powerful women, and powerful men that they can think of, to describe the most positive and negative personal experiences they have had with powerful women and men, and to say if and how women with power differ from men with power. Next, they were asked to comment on how most women and most men view women with power and men with power. Finally, they were asked to list and describe their relationship with women and men in their own lives who hold or have held power with respect to them.
      In examining the questionnaire responses, we found that omen and men differed significantly in their rating of the possibility that they would become the person they had imagined in the very first question: Women thought it was less likely than men did that this possibility would be actualized.
      Turning to the participants' visions of themselves in the three specific roles of CEO, political leader, and director of a scientific research center, some interesting patterns appear. First of all, the possibility that they have the most difficulty imagining for themselves is that of the political leader. Forty-seven percent of the sample listed the political leader as the least imaginable possibility; 40% listed the scientific director as least imaginable; only 4 people listed the CEO. The women in the sample were more likely than the men to list the political leadership role as the most difficult to imagine: 51.5% to 43.3%. Participants were quite emphatic in their comments about why it was difficult to imagine themselves in a political leadership position. Here is a sample of their comments:

 

Because I have an aversion to it.
Because it would be a nightmare.
I don't imagine myself as a political leader; I am not that cruel.
Because they are all untrustworthy people.
Because you can't satisfy everybody's needs and that would make me feel like a failure.
I see all politicians as bad guys.

      The mean ratings for the questions about "how possible" and "how positive" are the images of the three specific roles of CEO, political leader, and director of a scientific research center, show a consistent gender difference. As seen in the next two graphs, [OVERHEADS HERE], women rated all the roles as less possible and less positive than men did.
 Imagine Yourself as a Person with Power

 Imagine Yourself as a Person with Power

      A multivariate analysis on these scales showed that there was a significant multivariate effect of gender, F(7,46)=2.24, p<.05, which further analyses showed could be attributed mainly to the ratings of possibility for the respondents' own imagined "person with power," F(1,52)=5.23, p<.026, and for the political leadership position, F(1,52)=4.57, p<.05, and for the rating of how positive was their image of the political leader F(1,52)=10.34, p<.002. The women were less sanguine than the men about the possibility and the positiveness of these roles.
      The themes that had emerged in the earlier pilot study led me to wonder whether concerns about relationship moderate young women's and men's attraction to powerful positions. In order to determine this, my students and I sorted the respondents' descriptions of the three "possible self" roles according to whether they included worry or negative feelings about relationships. Two raters sorted each of the three sets of responses into one of the following 3 categories: (1) refusal to answer the question; (2) no relationship problems anticipated with this possible self; (3) anticipated relationship problems associated with this possible self. Although the kinds of relationship concerns mentioned included a wide range of possibilities, we simply coded for the presence or absence of any anticipated relationship problem. We found this coding to be very reliable, with high agreement between raters.
      An examination of the responses coded as anticipated relationship problems revealed a wide range of concerns, including setting relationship boundaries ("I would be friendly but not too friendly with co-workers. I would want to have some kind of barrier between me and my workers so there would be a level of respect"); finding an appropriate balance between the images of femininity and power to project to others ("I would wear business suits every day. My hair would always be up in a bun to symbolize that I am not ... a sex symbol just because I am a woman in power"); difficulties with trust and openness ("I ... wouldn't feel very secure because nobody trusts politicians"); and using work or position as a way of distancing the self from others ("I would act like I knew more than other people").
      The graph for the Percentage of Respondents Mentioning Relationship Problems shows the frequency of anticipated relationship problems according to role and gender.
 Percentage of Respondents Mentioning Relationship Problems

With respect to the relationship between gender and the sorting categories, frequency analyses showed that gender and relationship-problem category were significantly related for the political leader role, but not for the other two roles. When imagining themselves as political leaders, women were more likely than men to anticipate relationship problems.
      Results from the analysis of frequencies by gender were also supported by the ratings that respondents gave to the possibility of becoming a political leader. A 2-way analysis of variance showed that the anticipation or non-anticipation of relationship problems (RP category) was significantly associated with possibility ratings for the political leadership role: Those who anticipated relationship problems (both women and men) gave lower possibility ratings for this role than did those who did not anticipate such problems, F(1, 55)=35.84, p<.001. However, women's reluctance to imagine themselves in this role came through strongly: Among respondents who did not anticipate that they would experience relationship problems in this role, women rated the role as less possible for themselves than men did. So women were more likely to anticipate relationship problems as political leaders, which may have dampened their enthusiasm for the political role, but even those who did not anticipate relationship problems saw this role as less possible for themselves than men did.
      In subsequent studies, I have not always found exactly the same pattern as this one, but I have almost always found that young women show more concern than men do about the problems that powerful positions may create for relationships. For instance, in a second sample of RU students, I found that women anticipated more relationship problems than men did in the CEO and Science Director roles, and in a study comparing US and Puerto Rican students, I found a general tendency for women to anticipate more relationship problems than men did with powerful roles.
      So, while it clearly is not the only barrier that young women perceive, concern over the way one's relationships may be affected by holding a powerful position is apparently one of the things inhibiting women from aspiring to such roles.
      Why are women concerned? The media treatment of powerful women I discussed at the beginning of this talk provides one possible answer. If they pay attention to mass media characterizations of powerful women, young women may be convinced of generally negative reaction to powerful women. A look at the data from my respondents suggests that, at the very least, they have a strong suspicion that men react negatively to powerful women. Our questionnaire asked, in an open-ended way, what most men and women thought of powerful women and powerful men. My student Claudia Diaz Zuniga, who examined these responses, found that by far the most negative responses came from the item: most men think that powerful women are.... And the negative responses that were filled in here included themes such as: autocratic, bitchy, ineffective, and cold. So, many of these young women were apparently convinced that men resented and disapproved of powerful women.
      Another thing that probably inhibits young women from imagining themselves as powerful is the shortage of powerful women role models. One of the things that our questionnaire asked of respondents was to list the names of persons with power that they could think of. My student, Lori Wilson discovered that, when asked to do this, respondents of both sexes listed men over five and one-half times more frequently than women.

Cross-Cultural Investigations
      I wondered whether the patterns I was seeing with my respondents in the southern United States would be similar to those in other places, so I set about trying to gather data in other countries. That meant, of course, translating the questionnaire into other languages. Some years ago, with the help of my colleague Mirta Gonzalez at the University of Costa Rica, I translated the questionnaire into Spanish, and then translated the Spanish version back into English to make the two versions as compatible as possible. One of the major problems we encountered in doing this translation was that there was no easy way to translate the phrase "powerful woman" into Spanish. In Spanish, the direct translation,"mujer poderosa," means strong (i.e., muscular) woman. We eventually had to settle for "a woman with power" (mujer con poder). (Interestingly, when I later tried to get the questionnaire translated into Chinese, my translator faced the same problem: She could not figure out a way to say "powerful woman" in Chinese). Clearly, the idea of a powerful woman is not one that people are used to.
      With the Spanish version of the questionnaire, we collected a sample of responses from 25 women and twenty-five men, undergraduate students at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid in Spain. My graduate students Sudie Back and Claudia Diaz Zuniga translated and coded their answers and worked with me to analyze them. When we looked at their responses, we found both similarities and differences from the U.S. sample:
  • like American students, the Spanish students regarded their own imagined role as more possible for them than any of the other 3 roles we specifically asked them to imagine
  • like American women, the Spanish women found the political leader role most difficult to imagine. However, they rated the CEO role as the most negative.
  • like American students, the Spanish students listed more men than women when asked to name powerful persons
  • like American students, the Spanish students gave the most negative responses to the item "Most men think that powerful women are ...." in comparison to the items asking what most women think of powerful women and what men and women think of powerful men
  • the students in Spain, in contrast to the students in the U.S., mentioned relatively few anticipated relationship problems in connection with any of the roles. Also, in contrast to the US sample, there were no gender differences in ratings of the possibility or positivity of the various roles.
  • when relationship problems were mentioned, they were most often associated with the CEO role (18% of respondents listed potential relationship problems with this role), which was the most negatively-rated role.
  • in the Spanish sample, there was only a small and non-significant tendency for women to list more anticipated relationship problems than men (13% of women vs. 9% of men listed relationship problems with any role)
  • the one way in which the Spanish sample differed quite dramatically from the US sample was in the anticipated relationship problems associated with the political leader role. The students in Spain foresaw significantly fewer relationship problems associated with this role than the students in the US did
  • when we broke the responses down by gender, we found that this difference was mainly due to the women in the two samples. Whereas 57% of the US women had anticipated relationship problems with this role, only 16% of the Spanish women did so.
      Now obviously, we cannot use this one study to draw any conclusions about general differences between women in the US and Spain. On the other hand, the similarities between the two samples do seem to be worth noting. In both samples, the political role seems the least possible one for women, respondents have a much harder time thinking of powerful women than powerful men, and respondents seem to be convinced that men hold an especially negative view of powerful women. Clearly, university students in both countries have been exposed to the notion that power, perhaps especially political power, is problematic for women.
      On the other hand, reading the responses of the Spanish sample suggested to us that we might be missing the boat by focusing exclusively on relationship problems, that there are other potential sources of ambivalence about powerful roles. In reading the responses of the students in Spain, we often ran across very negative comments about powerful roles-but they were not the kinds of comments that fit into the "relationship problems" category. Also, we were mindful of our conclusions from the US data that relationship problems were not "the whole story" in explaining ambivalence that respondents may feel about powerful roles. This led us to develop a more elaborate coding scheme to examine a broader spectrum of conflicts/ambivalences. We are still in the early stages of working with this coding scheme, but we have applied it to a comparison of a sample of female respondents from Argentina and a subset our original US sample on one portion of the questionnaire: the section that asks students to describe and evaluate who they would be if they were a powerful person.
      The Argentina sample is made up of 45 women from psychology classes in three universities in Buenos Aires, with a mean age of just under 21 years. Their responses were collected, coded, and analyzed and interpreted with me by my colleague Renata de Verthelyi, who is a psychologist from Argentina.
      The coding system we used looked at both conflicts and values associated with holding powerful roles. First, we coded for the presence or absence of any type of conflict-indicated by the use of wording that indicated tension between two opposing goals, such as "firm, but fair," "successful, but not forget my friends." Next, we coded for the presence or absence of several different types of conflict, shown here [OVERHEAD: TYPES OF CONFLICT CODED].
 Types of Conflict Coded

Third, we also coded for specific values that respondents mentioned, as shown here [OVERHEAD: TYPES OF VALUES CODED].
 Types of Values Coded

Finally, we coded for "what they would use their power for," as shown [OVERHEAD: WHAT POWER WOULD BE USED FOR].
 Codes: For What Purpose Would Power Be Used?

      Applying this coding system to the Argentina sample, we found that just over 39% mentioned some form or conflict or ambivalence when describing their own imagined powerful role. Of the various types of conflicts we were looking for, only three were mentioned with notable frequency: authoritarian vs. democratic (17.9%), accomplishment vs. stress (10.7%), and successful/famous vs. modest/humble (7.1%). Each of the others was mentioned by fewer than 4% of the respondents.
      When describing what they would be like in their imagined powerful role, these Argentine women were especially likely to mention as desirable the values of competence (41.1%) and openness (23.2%), and smaller numbers mentioned other values.
      A majority (53.5%) said that they would use their power to try to create change for the better in the world, and one-half of them reported that it was either "possible" or "very possible" that they would be in the position that they had imagined.
      We are still working on coding the US sample using this newer coding system. However, in comparing a randomly selected subset of 25 women from the US sample to the Argentine women, we have found few differences so far. The two groups of women do not differ in the proportion that mention some type of conflict connected to their imagined powerful role. Nor did they differ in the type of conflict that they imagined. In both samples, the most frequently mentioned was "authoritarian vs. democratic." In terms of values, the US women, like the Argentine women, were most likely to mention the value of competence (40%). However, they were less likely than the Argentine women to mention openness (only 12% as opposed to 23%) and considerably more likely than the Argentine women to mention kindness/consideration (40% as opposed to 10.7%).
 Values mentioned in describing self in imagined role

      Interestingly, the Argentine women were more likely to imagine themselves as politicians than the US women were (27% vs. 12%). However, their responses also indicated that they anticipated disliking that role. In fact, of all the women in both samples who used the reason "dislike the position" to explain the low likelihood of their imagined role "coming true", almost two-thirds (63%) were imagining a political position. This notion of disliking the role came up much more often with politics than with any other field.
      Obviously we have a lot more to do with these data. However, once again, we have identified some similarities between the women in Argentina and those in our other samples. A significant number of them seem to be ambivalent about the notion of holding a powerful role; in particular, a number of them indicate discomfort with the idea of themselves in role of political leader; they find it easier to think of powerful persons who are men than who are women, and they seem convinced that most men react negatively to powerful women.

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