Perceptions of women as political leaders at a time of crisis: a psychosocial study

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Amy TatumUniversity of Bournemouth, UK

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Shelley ThompsonUniversity of Bournemouth, UK

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Candida YatesUniversity of Bournemouth, UK

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Women in political leadership have been the topic of much discussion since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a number of women in executive office being praised for their empathic approach. The pandemic has raised questions about the role of women in political leadership at a time of crisis and the drivers behind the feelings they evoke. Drawing on online reflective focus groups with participants mainly from the United Kingdom during the COVID-19 national lockdowns, this article explores the feelings and affective responses evoked from seeing women in political leadership roles at a time of crisis. The focus groups highlighted the conflict that participants felt at seeing women political leaders navigating crisis situations, with expected displays of empathy at the forefront of discussions. The findings also suggest that, in order to be trusted, women political leaders must still overcome gendered expectations about their authority and warmth. The participants felt conflicted when evaluating the leadership styles of women in politics and grappled with notions of trust and authenticity. The article provides new psychosocial insights into the way we think and feel about women political leaders and highlights the complex gendered terrain that women in political leadership have to navigate.

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Amy TatumUniversity of Bournemouth, UK

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Shelley ThompsonUniversity of Bournemouth, UK

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Candida YatesUniversity of Bournemouth, UK

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