Posted by: LesleySummerville | April 8, 2015

The Science Behind Women’s Emotions

I’ve always been interested in the neuroscience behind the emotional differences we see between men and women, which are heavily affected by the hormones present in the different sexes. We’ve talked some in class about how emotions can cloud a person’s ability to see a situation objectively and think logically as a leader. As women are typically considered more emotional than men, they’re discounted as leaders because of their supposed inability to view leadership in a logical way. While looking for an article about the emotion vs. logic argument between men and women, I came across this one:

In this article, the writer explains that he believes the argument against female leaders because of their emotions is a lie. He goes on to say that, even though women are typically more emotional, their abilities as leaders are not lessened because any good leader, man or woman, is able to control those emotions in order to be more effective. He says a leader’s ability to lead is “not a matter of sex — it’s a matter of self-control.”

I wanted to see if women actually were proven to be less capable of thinking logically when compared to men, so I did a little more research. I found this article:

It explains that women are proven to think just as rationally and as logically as men, but are more averse to inflicting harm on other people. They found that, when given scenarios involving murder, torture, lying, etc., women thought with similar levels of rationality about the affect of causing harm, but were more against actually causing that harm. In my own opinion, I think that being less inclined to cause harm to others would make a person a better leader.

Have you ever experienced a situation in which a female leader let her emotions play too far into her decisions as a leader? Do you believe that women can control their emotions in order to be as effective as male leaders? Do you think that women need to hide their emotions, or if they can actually have a positive effect on the outcome of a situation (i.e. being averse to inflicting harm on others)?


  1. I personally have never experienced a women leader let her emotions take over her decision making. However, I have seen male leaders and bosses lose themselves in their emotions, usually they let their angry control their decisions. I do think that women can control their emotions and do it quite well. They can control their emotions to be effective because any good leader will do that no matter the gender. Women should not have to hide emotions, but they should not let their emotions cloud their judgement. Gender has nothing to with emotions because both men and women leaders have emotions and let their emotions cloud their minds sometimes. For me acknowledging you have a emotions and showing them is not a sign of weakness, but emotions should never run every decision. There is a time to be emotional as a leader and other times leaders need to be the logical ones, so they can make the best decisions. Showing some emotions will allow followers to see that the leader cares, so it can be a useful tool.

  2. I like the point you make concerning the idea that, if women have an equal ability to control their emotions and are yet more averse to inflicting harm or detriment toward others, they would theoretically make better leaders. However, this becomes interesting in a number of ways. First, where did the misconception that states the opposite of this come from? Where is the gap? Secondly, why are women different from men in this way? It would be intriguing to go one level deeper and analyze the biological reasons that women act differently in this way, and then apply it to see if these traits allow women to be more effective leaders than men.
    The fact that we are even still questioning if women can control their emotions as men can in sort of a waste of our time. This relates to what we talk about in class with mask wearing and authenticity. Even this question indicates a societal issue in that men really aren’t pressured to control their emotions, whereas women are under this test to see if they can hide their true selves. One could even go as far as to say that we are making generalizations that all women are emotional, which is largely untrue.
    That we, as a global society, are asking humans to hide their emotions is an interesting thought. To some degree, yes, this is necessary and beneficial. However, when it is taken to extremes, as it often is, no leader, regardless of gender, should have to mask a part of their humanity. I think we have lost some of our understanding and touch with our true selves in this way. When did the workplace go from professional to an impossible, untouchable environment?
    I honestly believe that women and men have equal capabilities of controlling their emotions, and that much of the conceptions about women and emotionality result from societal gender roles and stereotypes. But this again leaves us with our ever-nagging question, what do we do about it?

  3. I find this subject very interesting and have often wondered if there is scientific evidence behind the idea that women are more emotional. I think our society has always associated emotional with unstable and therefore bad leadership. But, I think that emotion means empathy which in my opinion, is a critical component to a good and just leader. Female leaders are stereotypically much more empathetic than male leaders. A leader should be in tune with the followers to care for them and understand them so as to get them to get on board with the shared vision and to create positive change. You mention how a less emotional leader would be more inclined to hurt the followers and that lack of empathy will lead the followers to distrust the leader and turn against the vision or goal.

  4. The debate on women being emotional versus logical and that in relation to leadership is quite an interesting concept. I think, as a society, we conceptualize emotional as being overdramatic, sensitive, and sappy, in which we connect these types of emotions to women. Regardless if that’s even true, I think emotional also can allude to the extreme of other emotions, like being angry, apprehensive, suspicious, or over-controlling. I think men are stereotyped to be more controlling, angry, tense in comparison to women, however, these type of emotions are not classified at ’emotional.’ I believe that we first need to redefine what emotional really is and attempt to minimize the stigma that being emotional entails.

    On the aspect of hiding or controlling emotions, I think at certain times it’s important to be able to know how to control them depending on the situation. For instance, in an emergency that requires a big decision, I think it’s important to know how not to allow your emotions become to high where it clouds reality and your judgement. However, on the other hand, using emotions I think can have a big impact on followers if used appropriately. For instance, in motivational speeches, I think showing that emotion in a positive way to emphasis passion and drive will transpire more clearly to that audience versus only talking ‘logically.’ I think there should be healthy balance of both aspects and knowing when to use emotions or logic that would be most beneficial while still being authentic.

  5. This is a fantastic point to bring up and the articles you found were very interesting! This is a topic that I have often thought about during the semester. In several articles we have read they describe the stereotypical leadership attributes that women share, similarly as you have mentioned before, and my response every time has been, “Why is this a bad thing?” Of course it always depends on the situation because that’s how leadership is but I would guarantee that personally 99% of the time I would want a leader who was collaborative, conscientious, empathetic, passionate, and who truly wanted the best out come for everyone who worked under them. If this is what women can provide as leaders I believe that there is no reason that they should be discriminated against because they may show more emotion in their work. Now there are times when showing emotion is not acceptable. But I believe that most women who are on a track for upper level management have high emotional intelligence and know when is the appropriate times to use and show emotion in the work place. Overall women should be allowed to use their innate skills in their leadership and if that means bringing emotions into the mix than so be it.

  6. While I have had experiences with both genders getting angry and letting their emotions get in the way of their leadership, I think the big thing is how society treats their emotion. We all know how women are viewed when getting angry (oh its cause shes a women, or its just that time of the month) yet from my experience people view men getting angry as being on them instead of the man. It sickens me how we don’t think we can just push it off men but push it on women. Honestly I think the major problem is how emotion in leaders is treated. From my experience leaders are only supposed to be proud of their followers or disappointed in them. They aren’t allowed to have emotions except around that. I feel that people too often forget that the leaders we follow are people as well who have their own issues that we all too often don’t see. These issues can have a bigger impact than we think they do.

  7. My though is a man or women can have their emotion cloud their thoughts and effective their decision making process. So you cant pin emotion decision making on one gender, because both are capable of doing it. Also women are very capable of control our emotion in the work place and any other place, we aren’t an emotional time bomb waiting to happen. One thing that I believe is a leader must have some emotion when it come to their leadership, because I would not want to be a follower to someone who is considered to be cold and unemotional. On hiding ones emotions their are different situations that either you can express your emotions or where you must push them aside for the greater good.

  8. I think the topic for your blog post is a very interesting one. We focus so much on the cultural aspects between women and men as leader that it is refreshing to see a biological side. With said, I think your chosen articles and blog made some very good point such as women are not as willing to cause harm to others. This reminds me of the woman in which I interviewed for my second paper. She believed that showing your followers that you care for them is the best way to leader. She spoke of an example when an officer on her team had been killed and tensions were high amongst her followers. She gave a speech about how important the officer was, how sorry she was for their lost and not about revenge. Her moving speech caused her to cry. Afterwards, her commanding officer criticized her for crying and she said that they need someone to share that they understood what they were going through and cared about them. I thought that emotions can be beneficial if you appropriately.

  9. I believe that as stated effective leaders have a certain level of emotional intelligence in which they are capable to understand and control their emotions. With this there is also the ability to be aware of one’s ego and the ability to control that as well. I believe that both men and women are equally able to have this emotional intelligence, but as a society we condition men to be unemotional thus preventing men from learning fully how to control/deal with their emotions when they do become too high, which in turn leads to massive eruptions of anger an frustration in many cases. In addition to not being taught the proper outlets and regulation of emotions, men are also socialized to be more egotistical in a way as they are forced to see themselves as providers. This provider role creates the idea that it is better to take risks if the outcomes can mean more for you and those you are providing for. These socialization about emotions and ego that occur in predominantly in men, can lead to the sometimes ineffective actions that occur in leadership spheres surrounding emotion.

  10. I believe that women are just as able to control their emotions as men. I agree with a few of the comments in here that state that when a man is overcome with anger on a subject, he is often seen as upholding the ideals of the organization or not bowing down to pressure whereas a woman is seen as irrational. I believe that both genders are able to control their emotions but it is society that tends to blow situations out of proportion. As for women needing to hide their emotions, I dont believe that they should be completely hidden, however, I believe that they should only be shown within reason of what is acceptable in the workplace. If a woman is upset about a certain decision, she should be able to voice her opinion, however, she should most likely not be in tears over it in a meeting. I believe that because women are more averse to decisions that end up causing harm, organizations could find more humane ways of dealing with situations rather than always taking the defensive.

  11. I think emotional intelligence in any position is really important. Many times I assume that because women tend to be very much in touch with their own emotions, that they will able to easily and more readily pick up on the emotions of others. I have seen this simple contrast between in the men of my own family who may have a very hard time understanding why a certain word or deed would cause me to be upset. Not picking up on emotional cues or predicting how someone may react to a situation seems to be more common in men than in women in my personal experience.
    Unfortunately, many times I have seen emotions get the best of a female leader. Especially when it comes to emotions towards other women. However, sometimes I think emotions can be good motivation for women to get things done, whereas I have witnessed men just let things go on and on without talking them through.
    I think that many times women should hide their emotions because it will not always be appropriate to share them. However, this does not mean concealing their passion or their ideals. I think that overall, emotions are a valuable tool that women have to their advantage and can help female leaders to better understand those they are leading.

  12. I have had a woman boss who let her emotions get in the way of the job. She would always be upset and would let those emotions run into getting activities done and conducting herself in a professional manner. She would treat me and my coworkers horribly because she was having a bad day. Although I have this experience with a female boss I still believe that not all women are the same type of leader. Each woman adapts her leadership style and acts differently.
    I have been interested in the topic of the science behind women and leadership and it is assuring to see that science proves that women are just as capable as men in leadership. This leads me to wonder why we still have the notion that women are emotional and can not contain their emotions. If it is a proven fact then what has led us to believe that women are too emotional? Is it due to societal values and how we grew up thinking men couldn’t cry but girls were supposed to be gentle and emotional? There could be many explanations for this thinking but with science proving women are just as capable then maybe that is a step to help us into leadership positions.
    I believe that men and women are equally able to lead efficiently and effectively. Although I don’t think either gender should hide all of their emotions. Showing emotion shows humanity and I think that is a part of being an authentic leader. I think as a society our perception of leaders is a masculine person who doesn’t show emotion and is very strong. I think more women could have the opportunity to lead if we changed our perception of what a leader is.

  13. I personally have met at least one female and male leader who have let their emotions affect their leadership. I had one boss whose fear of failure made her far too task-oriented and authoritative, when the staff needed emotional support. This leader blocked her emotions actually and that is what made her a worse leader. I believe emotion can only help a leader…. to a point. I do not think women are over-emotional or more emotional than men. I think that our emotions and humanity benefit leadership because it allows the leader to truly connect to the follower on a personal level and motivate them from within, instead of offering external rewards for compliance. I think society needs to rid themselves of the stigma that having emotions are bad. There is a reason we were born with them and it isn’t because they weaken us but instead bring us together stronger. Leadership needs emotions from both men and women simple as that

  14. I tend to agree with the idea that emotions have less to do with what gender someone is and more to do with the level of self-control they can exercise. In my personal experience, I did have a female supervisor who was known for being extremely emotional. If she was yelled at by a customer, often times she would go to the back room and cry rather than being rational and knowing that the anger was not necessarily even directed at her. However, this particular supervisor lacked self-control in many ways, not just emotionally. At the same time, another female supervisor of mine was perfectly capable of handling emotional situations in a rational and detached manner that was appropriate. Both of them exhibited different leadership styles and interacted differently with their employees.
    I think that is a dangerous generalization to classify all women as being “emotional” and not controlled in their decision making. Women are just as capable of making rational decisions as their male counterparts. And likewise, a male leader may lack self-control in certain aspects of their leadership which hinders their success in some way. Leadership is about effectiveness and if you can exercise the tools of being an effective leader, then you will have success, no matter your gender.

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