Examining the Politics of Gendered Difference in Feminine Leadership: The Absence of ‘Female Masculinity’

  • Alison Pullen
  • Sheena J. Vachhani
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Leadership and Followership book series (PASTLEFO)


This chapter takes ‘female masculinity’ as a way of teasing out the tensions and contradictions implicit in current approaches to feminine leadership and the ways that they stress the competitive advantage of women in the workplace. Current approaches to feminine leadership run the risk that the entry of the feminine into leadership might actually attempt to control and serve to further oppress women’s subjectivity through its appropriation of the feminine. To advance leadership thinking, ‘feminine leadership’ requires being read as a contradictory site which promotes flexible and ambiguous portraits of gender and leadership. This notion of female competitive advantage obscures the problematic gender binaries on which the juxtaposition between feminine and masculine leadership is based. This construction and constriction of femininity negate a multiplicity of subjectivities and require closer examination especially in relation to how the re-appropriation of gendered binaries which demarcate sexual difference and mark femininity as under control or within ‘acceptable bounds’ may serve to promote inequality. Given this critique, we conclude that closer attention to feminist ethics, especially a turn to understanding femininity and leadership as relational, allows us to explore and promote the possibilities of an ethical openness to otherness.


Leadership Gender Politics Feminine leadership Female masculinity Ethics 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alison Pullen
    • 1
  • Sheena J. Vachhani
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Marketing and ManagementMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Economics, Finance and ManagementUniversity of BristolCliftonUK

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