It Takes Balls to be a Girl Boss

Assessing the Influence of Androgens in the Emergence of Female Leaders


  • Amie Flattery Trinity College Dublin


Women in Leadership, Girl Boss, Endocrinological Mechanisms, Crocuta crocuta, Sexual Dimorphism, Endocrines and Masculinisation, Cross-species endocrinology, Social Dominance, Gender Roles, Prescriptive Gender Stereotypes, Androgens, Leadership Perceptions, Biological Essentialism


In the vast majority of mammalian societies, males enjoy the highest social ranking, a dichotomy that is largely modulated by sex hormones known as androgens. However, in some species, like the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), these pervasive sex roles have been reversed, such that highly “masculinised” females have become the dominant sex. Drawing on observations from the natural world, this paper explores the relevance of the endocrinological mechanisms underlying the emergence of female leaders in these species to humans and considers to what extent androgens may influence the procurement and ultimate trajectory of female leadership in a species where women must overcome societal, as well as biological, challenges.



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