Why gender stereotypes still influence New Zealand’s perception of Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins as leaders

Women who lead both of New Zealand’s largest political parties should celebrate. Seeing Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins face-to-face in three television or online pre-election debates should surely dispel doubts about whether women are meeting the highest level of leadership demands. ..

Both women are confident, assertive, resilient under pressure, and are widely expected attributes of leaders, as will certainly be shown in the final discussion tonight. Still, gender bias continues to define aspects of their career and performance.

The format provided a limited and detailed policy debate, which is far from the “gladiator masculinity” that Donald Trump showed at the recent US presidential debate with Joe Biden. I will.

Nonetheless, the New Zealand campaign is still working with subtle but still influential gender dynamics. Ms Ardern and Ms Collins navigate these dynamics in a very unique way. This can help explain why each evokes such different emotions to voters. But how do people form these opinions?

Without formal research, everyone develops their own ideas about what good leadership involves. Researchers call these ideas “implicit leadership theories” and shape how leaders are perceived.

Although these personal theories may not be correct — in the sense that someone may evaluate the behavior of leaders who show that research is actually ineffective or harmful — they are still influential. ..

What makes you an effective leader?

Studies of these implicit theories show that traditionally masculinity-related behaviors are more likely to be seen as leaders. This means that when some people think of it as a “leader,” their default also thinks of “male.”

As a result, those who expect leaders to be “tough” and “strong” in the sense of “command” become attributes related to the traditional expectations of men. Similarly, intimidating, power-hungry, risky, demanding and domineering are often the qualities that people connect to leadership.

However, many studies suggest that these behaviors are not really the key qualities that make effective leaders. Rather, they tend to undermine innovation, impede quality decision-making, and fail to get the best out of people. Instead, it is more important to inspire people to work for humility, collaboration, team building, and common interests. These are also the qualities that women often show.

However, as they are implicitly judged against masculine norms, women continue to realize that they have achieved leadership roles and are more difficult to succeed in those roles.

Meet the expectations of others

Given all this, it’s not surprising that Judith Collins often adopts an overtly combative and masculine style to appeal primarily to traditional-minded voters.

Collins’ approach has a clear response from former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the so-called Iron Lady. She is proud to be a tough, command-controlled, tough prime minister without objection or failure.

The reality of gender leadership expectations means that otherwise Ms. Collins runs the risk that implicit leadership theory will not be seen as a leader by those who support such traditional masculine concepts. To do.

But this is by no means a guaranteed winning strategy. As British leadership scholar Keith Glint argues, it is generally unwise to declare that leaders can solve complex problems with simple solutions.

Strong vs good

Ms. Collins has also been captured by what researchers call “double bind,” which affects female leaders. If they traditionally behave femininely and focus on relationships and interests in others, they are at risk of being considered good women, but they are not effective leaders. If they show masculine behavior, they are at risk of being seen as competent leaders, but they are “bad” women.

Therefore, the more Ms. Collins meets the traditional expectations of a militant and masculine style of leadership, the greater the risk of alienating people, including within her voter base.

The more Judith Collins meets the traditional expectations of a masculine leadership style, the higher the risk of alienating her, the report said.


Ms. Ardern is also at risk of double bind, and vice versa. Her focus on being kind and caring for others means she is seen as a lovely woman, but not an effective leader.

Soft skills, difficult tasks

But “sensitivity” (meaning compassionate, compassionate, compassionate, kind, empathetic, selfless and friendly) is also included in implicit leadership theory.

There is evidence to suggest that these so-called “soft skills” are actually the key to effective leadership. Therefore, Ardern’s style risks losing credibility with those who stick to a more traditional and masculine view of leadership, but this does not mean that she is an ineffective leader.

Jacinda Ardern's emphasis on kindness means she is seen as a lovely woman, but not an effective leader, the report said.

The emphasis on Jacinda Ardern’s kindness means she is seen as a lovely woman, but not an effective leader, the report said.


In a political contest between two highly determined, confident and resilient women, some voters are inevitably influenced by gender prejudice about what makes a good leader. You need to remember that there are also. This is another challenge facing such female leaders.

Suze Wilson is a senior lecturer at Massey University..

Place of originWhy gender stereotypes still influence New Zealand’s perception of Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins as leaders

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