Knowledge Center

Different Cultures, Similar Perceptions: Stereotyping of Western European Business Leaders

Despite different national and cultural backgrounds, Catalyst found that women leaders gave similar accounts of what impedes their advancement in business. When Catalyst asked women leaders to identify the barriers that keep them out of the most senior positions in business, they cited gender stereotypes with great regularity. In the present study, Catalyst set out to better understand how women's experiences with stereotypes varied in countries across Europe.

For Different Cultures, Similar Perceptions: Stereotyping of Western European Business Leaders, Catalyst surveyed 935 respondents from IMD's alumni database. Two-hundred eighty-two (30.2 percent) were women, and 653 (69.8 percent) were men. This study analyzed similarities in the cultural beliefs of managers from ten countries, separated into four distinct clusters of culturally similar countries: Nordic (Denmark, Norway, Sweden); Latin (Italy, France, Spain); Germanic (Germany, The Netherlands); and Anglo (United Kingdom, United States).

The study found striking cross-cultural similarities in the ways senior managers stereotype women's and men's leadership capabilities. Moreover, the study suggests that in some cultures, these stereotypic perceptions discredit the effectiveness of women leaders at highly valued leadership attributes. 

While stereotypes cannot be eliminated overnight, the study suggests key actions to intercept the effects of stereotyping and prevent stereotyping from influencing key decision-making or negatively impacting the advancement of women; eliminating or weakening stereotypic biases so they do not have a chance to influence behavior; exposing employees to peers – including men – who are advocates for women leaders; increasing employees' abilities to monitor and control the effects of stereotypes on behavior through diversity education; defining gender equality in measurable terms and evaluate managers' performance against these metrics.

Lead Sponsor: General Motors Corporation

Participating Sponsor: IBM