Gender and leadership aspiration: The impact of work-life initiatives

Claudia Fritz, Daan Van Knippenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the increase in female leaders, women still remain a minority. As aspiration, defined as the interest for achieving a leadership position, is one predictor of advancement, it is important to understand conditions fostering female leadership aspiration. Because women face more domestic and child care responsibilities, we predict that there is an interaction between gender and work–life initiatives. These initiatives help employees balance their work and private life through simplifying the integration and diminishing tension between the two spheres. Because the work–life interface poses greater challenges for women, we hypothesize that work–life initiatives have a stronger influence on women's leadership aspiration. Results of a survey of N = 402 employed men and women supported this hypothesis. The interaction effect of gender and work–life initiatives on leadership aspiration was positive, implying that women's leadership aspiration is more influenced by work–life initiatives. Our other hypothesis which states that work–life initiatives—regardless of gender—are positively related to leadership aspiration was supported. Hence, men's leadership aspiration also was positively influenced by the availability of such initiatives. This study suggests that by implementing work–life initiatives, such as flexible work arrangements, leaves of absence, or on-site child assistance, organizations may encourage leadership aspiration for both genders. Our data show that the interaction effect of gender and work–life initiatives was positively related to leadership aspiration, but this may particularly hold true for women.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)855-868
JournalHuman Resource Management
Issue number4
Early online date20 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2017 by John Wiley & Sons. This is the peer reviewed version of the following article, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.


  • gender; leadership aspiration; work–life initiatives


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