An intersectional lens on young leaders: bias toward young women and young men in leadership positions

Research has recognized age biases against young leaders, yet understanding of how gender, the most frequently studied demographic leader characteristic, influences this bias remains limited. In this study, we examine the gender-specific age bias toward young female and young male leaders through an intersectional lens. By integrating intersectionality theory with insights on status beliefs associated with age and gender, we test whether young female and male leaders face an interactive rather than an additive form of bias. We conducted two preregistered experimental studies (N1 = 918 and N2 = 985), where participants evaluated leaders based on age, gender, or a combination of both. Our analysis reveals a negative age bias in leader status ascriptions toward young leaders compared to middle-aged and older leaders. This bias persists when gender information is added, as demonstrated in both intersectional categories of young female and young male leaders. This bias pattern does not extend to middle-aged or older female and male leaders, thereby supporting the age bias against young leaders specifically. Interestingly, we also examined whether social dominance orientation strengthens the bias against young (male) leaders, but our results (reported in the SOM) are not as hypothesized. In sum, our results emphasize the importance of young age as a crucial demographic characteristic in leadership perceptions that can even overshadow the role of gender.

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