Sex Roles

, Volume 79, Issue 9–10, pp 565–577 | Cite as

Gender Differences in Leadership Aspirations and Job and Life Attribute Preferences among U.S. Undergraduate Students

  • Leah D. SheppardEmail author
Original Article


The purpose of the present study was to examine gender differences in constructs associated with leadership aspirations in a sample of 467 undergraduate students because these might contribute to the gender gap in leadership attainment. The results demonstrated that female participants perceived themselves as having less leadership ability than male participants, and viewed their attainment of leadership roles as less likely than male participants did, which could reflect anticipated discrimination. Female participants reported less interest than male participants in elite leadership positions (e.g., CEO, senator), and associated positive characteristics with such roles less than male participants. They were also less likely than male participants to indicate a willingness to accept a promotion that would require them to sacrifice enjoyable work. Male and female participants ranked the importance of a variety of job and life attribute preferences similarly, though female participants emphasized the importance of life attribute preferences (e.g., family, good health), whereas male participants emphasized the importance of job attribute preferences (e.g., high salary). Finally, male participants were more likely than female participants to expect and prefer that they would out-earn their future spouses. These results highlight the need for greater consideration of how young women’s and men’s leadership aspirations and job/life preferences contribute to the gender gap in leadership attainment.


Gender differences Leadership aspirations Leadership attainment Job attribute preferences Gender gap 



No funding was received for this study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The IRB at WSU determined this research to be exempt from the requirement of IRB review.

Participants were not required to provide names and the data was viewed only by the researcher. The data is stored on the researcher’s password protected information. No identifying information is present in the dataset.

Conflicts of Interest

There are no conflicts of interest to report.

Supplementary material

11199_2017_890_MOESM1_ESM.docx (20 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 19 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Carson College of Business, Department of Management, Information Systems, and EntrepreneurshipWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA

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