Posted by: brittanybishop11 | February 1, 2013

Media and Leadership

Many factors go into both the concepts of gender and leadership. Psychological, social, cultural, historical, etc. The media is one factor which helps to shape the current ideas that surround these concepts. Some popular tv shows show women in power but they often look very different from their male counterparts. In Commander In Chief we saw a woman president who only gained the position by mistake instead of being elected into office as a male counterpart would be. In the sports night clip we watched the female leader we saw was fast-paced and tough yet still feminine and was aware of the feelings of those around her where a male in the same position would likely be unapologetic for his treatment of those under him (if we assume the stereotype of the male figure at least, this is not to say that men cannot be attuned to the affective needs of subordinates as well). But of course the most popular vision of women in a high leadership role is not competence or effectiveness but sexuality. In the tv show House, Lisa Cuddy is the dean of medicine at a hospital and while she is not underqualified for the job, she is often called out for her looks which can be very detrimental to the way others view a woman’s mental capacities. In the show Sherlock, the most powerful woman shown is Irene Adler who has an entire career based off sexuality and she uses her looks as an advantage over the mind of Sherlock Holmes to make him befuddled where he would usually be clear-headed and calm. Any celebrities that hope to make it big are caked with make up and encouraged to look as good as they can. Men have a pressure to look good but they are more easily viewed as competent and qualified  whether the looks are there or not. Men are promoted based on their merit, women are promoted based on their faces. The media helps perpetuate the idea that women are only capable of gaining power if they are attractive and I believe it may be one factor that holds many women back from gaining or even trying to gain a position in the world of higher leadership.


  1. To me, the media not only portrays women in an exaggerated or understated sort of way but it also sometimes fails to include them. This week, I was required to read Captain Underpants for my Children’s Literature class (I have a point, I promise). There are obviously many implications in every children’s book and they often comment on social issues. Captain Underpants, although a beloved series by girls and boys alike, lacks ANY female protagonists to serve as foils to Harold and George. Captain Underpants is a subversive novel that children love to read and it has a very good track record for getting hesitant readings to pick it up. Is it a bad thing that within the text the girls do not subscribe to our “heroes”? It is concerning that media includes first read novels as well as television. Basically, it is very easy for a young child to pick up something riddled with unintentional sexism.

  2. I agree, the media most often than not depicts women as simply charismatic and a side kick to a male hero. Much like the female in Burn Notice. However recently I’ve noticed a female actress who is actually noted more for her lack of feminine qualities. Melissa McCarthy in Identity Thief and the Heat plays rather raw characters. Both of which play up a more masculine role. In the Heat she does not wear make-up and refuses even to wear a police uniform. She is a stereotypical “redneck” gun-ho and all. And in Identity Thief she plays the role of a robber or thief which is thought of more as a male role. Also in Covert Affairs the main character is female and is very competent in her role in the CIA. So I think although bubbly females are still prominent in the media I do believe it is improving gradually, but it seems to be following the trend of the connotation of females in society; both steadily improving.

  3. The media plays a large role in leadership. It portrays leaders in a light that can tent the view that can be the only knowledge that the public has of them. Whether it is women as a bitch or a ditz, a beautiful movie star, or an athlete the media gets to set the image we see of them, and without further research that view will forever be one sided. It is like I was talking about on the other post with out the media how will the mass population be able to see the movements that these women are trying to make? The media is a necessary evil when it comes to portraying women in leadership roles.

  4. I think that not only do we as a society expect women to be well dressed, but we also have specific expectations of what women are supposed to wear based on their occupation. For example, we expect individuals who have had to receive a significant amount of education for their occupations (i.e. doctors, lawyers, etc) to be better dressed than others. Conversely, we expect women who have very little education to not be very well dressed. Even then, we have expectations of people who are well educated that we don’t think should be dressed well (or know how to anyway) like scientists or college professors. In my personal experience, when I’ve been interviewed for biology-related positions, people did not think that I had performed field work because I didn’t show up to the interview in boots and muddy clothes. It also occurs when people see me in field clothes on campus rather than a nice outfit. Thus, I would agree that looks are definitely influential in terms of our perceptions of leadership, but there are also other factors and assumptions that contribute to these perceptions.

  5. What you are saying is very intriguing. For generations women have had to sell themselves based on looks. Like you said, men are pressured to look good, but looks are not their first step into success. It seems from your observations that women have not been able to get past the requirement to look good or pretty before they can reveal their capabilities. Women have to dress up the outside to get a foot in the door, but men seem to only need to look good in order to improve on the recognized competence on the inside.

  6. I agree that the media portrays women as sex symbols and that they are promoted or seen as competent because they are pretty or have slept with the boss or co-worker. There is a fine line that should not be crossed when dealing with sexual desires and the work place. Women should feel like they are pressured into looking a certain way or doing something for someone else to get a promotion or keep their job. Physical features are not necessarily as important for a man in the workplace. They are able to move up the ladder based on their merit.

  7. I think that in today’s society media has a huge impact on the way that we percieve others, especially in leadership positions. The amount of criticism that is created today based on the materialistic features of our leaders comes a lot from social media and the promotion of negative images. Women and men leaders both are targeted towards this slander. When you take a look at women in leadership and the pressure that they recieve to look and act their best is placed upon a lot of leaders through social media. Physical appearance has become more and more of an issue and people seem to be more concerned with the fact of how a person looks rather than how they apply themselves. It is sad to say that people are allowing influences such as media to sway their decisions and interpretations of leaders.

  8. Today;s media is going out for profit in that the pic scenes or characters that has statistics of showing the most popularity. Women in leadership roles, whether considered in a negative light or not, are often seen as being more appreciated or more accepted when presented in a “sexual manner” I think this is because it seems to sell well with male viewers and therefore causes viewing rates to go up and therefore is used. whether or not this is the actual scenario is a big debate. I believe a lot of “female” leaders are actually seen as scary or intimidating rather than sexy and as a piece of meat to be hit on.

  9. Although I agree that beauty makes women more “eligible” for leadership and it may help someone be more liked it isn’t always a source of power. take example one of the most successful women in America, Ellen Degenerous. Ellen is not at all known for beauty, most would probably say she is definitely lacking in the glamour department however SHE IS STILL extremely successful. She is debateably one of the most popular comedians in America.

  10. I agree that media plays a major role in the portrayal of women. In many commercials endorsed by the U.S. Army, many women are portrayed as strong and independent women, but once the helmets come off, these women have perfect hair and flattering make up. Women are presented as dolls rather than soldiers. However, they are still depicted as strong female leaders. I believe in this case the media is trying to portray women as both independent and feminine, which is not a bad thing.

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