Negotiating Gender Role Expectations: Rhetorical Leadership and Women in the US Senate

Document Type



Behavioral and Organizational Sciences (CGU)

Publication Date



Organization Development | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


The historical paucity of US women senators has provided little opportunity to study women at one of the highest and most prestigious leadership levels. Through a content analysis of 12 months of public discourse in a variety of media, we explore the rhetorical leadership of women senators as they carry out their elected roles. Results indicate that women senators use significantly less aggressive and more ambivalent speech when compared to political norms, and are less likely to use terms denoting accomplishment, praise and human interest. Overall, our results suggest that women continue to feel the effects of gender stereotypes and expectations in higher levels of political office, and these effects may have important negative implications for perceptions of their leadership and effectiveness.

Rights Information

© 2008 SAGE Publications