Tuesday, October 22, 2013

URSP Student Kathryn Leonelli Examines Present-day Beliefs Surrounding Differing Styles of Leadership

     As my undergraduate career nears completion this May, I can easily reflect on what I’ve learned as a Communication major over the past four years. In my classes, we analyze the way that society interacts in small group, intercultural, and organizational settings. In the Spring semester of my sophomore year, the professor of my Organizational Communication class assigned us a research paper where we examine a current trend or topic that is occurring in organizations across the world. Around this time, Marissa Mayer was appointed as Yahoo CEO and was receiving negative publicity from the media because she was a woman who was about to go on maternity leave due to her pregnancy. However, she proved everyone who doubted her ability to balance an executive role and her maternal responsibilities wrong when she turned Yahoo’s third quarter earnings completely around. She transformed Yahoo, notably a “sinking ship,” back into the profitable company it once was. I focused my research paper on the rising number of women in leadership and board positions, using Marissa Mayer as an example, which I felt evidenced a cultural evolution that would continue to show an increase of women into managerial roles. 

    My professor raved about my paper to the entire Communication Department and suggested that I apply for the Honors Research Program and continue to study this phenomenon. With her guidance, I drafted my research proposal and decided to study the attitudes and expectations of recent graduates about to enter the workforce on working for a female boss. I was accepted into the Honors Research Program and hope that having research experience will support my long-term goal of getting into a competitive grad school. In addition to graduating with honors, I will be able to identify if the cultural shift of women into leadership roles is welcomed or admonished by prospective employees that represent the future of the workplace.

     Every week, I meet with my faculty sponsor and we discuss different ways that I can accomplish this study. I have been working on revising some parts of my proposal to give it a richer dimension and refine my methodology and procedure. In addition, every week I continue to edit my survey that will be used. This week, I have discovered that my study will now include my hypothesis about leadership styles, and three research questions that explore gender bias, the combination of variables and their impact on perception, and the correspondence between what subjects say they believe and how they actually respond. While there are many studies done about gender and leadership in organizational contexts, my study focuses exclusively on the attitudes of young millenials that are about to enter the work force. Hopefully my research will show a progressive societal change in organizational settings.