Throughout history, women in positions of authority have often been perceived as violating well-established gender norms. Perhaps as a result, female leadership has often been viewed as a threat to male power and privilege and thus provoked resistance. Female leaders challenge longstanding sex stereotypes and patriarchal structures, subverting the identities of androcentric institutions and the people who comprise them. In so doing, they redefine notions of what it means to be a leader as well as what it means to be a woman. Cisgender male subordinates in particular may feel that their masculinity is under assault when they are placed under female supervision. This power struggle can be readily observed at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), which enrolled women for the first time in 1997 after the United States Supreme Court declared VMI's all-male admissions policy unconstitutional. To explore the impact of coeducation at VMI, I collaborated with a sociologist and psychologist to anonymously survey VMI's student body. This Article relies upon the empirical data we collected to explore perceptions of women in leadership at VMI. Our findings reveal that like many female politicians, CEOs, and other women working in male-dominated spheres, female cadets at VMI are often perceived as unworthy intruders ill-suited for leadership who attain rank primarily of their sex, not their merit. The prevalence of these attitudes among VMI cadets likely exacerbates tension between the sexes at VMI and undermines institutional efforts to foster leadership, solidarity, and mutual respect.
Man Up or Go Home: Exploring Perceptions of Women in Leadership,
100 Marq. L. Rev. 1233
Available at: https://scholarship.law.marquette.edu/mulr/vol100/iss4/5