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Recent leadership initiatives encourage children, particularly girls, to defy gender stereotypes. Yet, those creating and participating in these initiatives, like all members of our culture, have their own gender biases, have received gender socialization, and live in a society where the masculine is more valued than the feminine. We conducted participant observation of two gender-segregated leadership summer camps to examine how camp counselors and directors teach leadership to boys and girls. We find counselors unintentionally reinforce gender stereotypes and promote gender-typical behavior while attempting to break down these same stereotypes and behavioral expectations. We argue the gender-segregated environment leads to a problematic “separate but equal” approach to thinking about leadership that advances the individual abilities of boys and girls but does less to decrease gender disparities in emotional development, physical competition, or leadership styles. This research contributes to our understanding of how well-intentioned organizations and authorities, seeking to minimize gender disparities and develop strong leaders, unwittingly reproduce gender differences and perpetuate gender inequality.

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Sage Publishing


children and youth, culture, emotions, sex and gender




Trumpy, A. J., & Elliott, M. You Lead Like a Girl: Gender and Children’s Leadership Development. Sociological Perspectives, 62(3), 346-365. Copyright @ 2019. DOI: 10.1177/0731121418808800

You Lead Like a Girl: Gender and Children’s Leadership Development

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