Samantha Hancock joins DAN Management

Samantha Hancock, Assistant Professor, DAN Department of Management & Organizational Studies

Story by Rob Rombouts/ photo submitted

When women are in leadership roles, they are often viewed negatively for actions that would be considered as valuable or normal for a man. Samantha Hancock wants to change that.

Hancock has joined the DAN Department of Management & Organizational Studies as an Assistant Professor. Hancock is completing her PhD at Wilfrid Laurier University in Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources Management.

Her research is focused on women in leadership, and the particular challenges women face when they are pursuing leadership roles.

“My main goal is to increase gender equity in leadership roles,” said Hancock, including addressing how others view women in the workplace, and barriers women face when they obtain leadership.

In one study of her dissertation, Hancock compared how women and men are perceived differently when they engage in task conflict, sharing different views and opinions on tasks when working together in teams.

“Task conflict is seen as beneficial. It can help bring out new ideas and lead to creative solutions,” said Hancock. “But engaging in this task conflict goes against stereotypical behaviour women are seen to engage in, as they generally seen as warm and cooperative.”

Engaging in task conflict can be detrimental to women’s leadership potential or career progression. “It’s often advocated in teams that we need to engage in rigorous debates,” said Hancock, but women who do this can be perceived as being more argumentative.

Hancock is in the process of testing conflict management styles to make task conflict more equitable, to lessen the negative impact on women leaders.

“It’s important that people think twice about why they feel negatively about this person – is it about them or is it about expectations of how they should behave in the workplace.”

Hancock and her co-authors have also researched two phenomenon facing women leaders: the idea of ‘queen bee’ leadership, and the glass cliff.

The ‘Queen Bee’ phenomenon is the idea that women in higher leadership positions are said to hinder progress of junior female colleagues. The researchers are working to decipher how leaders are scrutinized, and what behaviours cause them to be labelled as ‘queen bee’ and dispel the idea of the queen bee in the workplace.

“We tend to problematize behaviours for women where we wouldn’t for men,’ said Hancock. “There is no equivalent term for men.”

In examining the Glass Cliff, when women are disproportionately offered precarious leadership positions in companies facing crisis, Hancock and her co-authors are looking at why women accept these positions.

When companies are facing crisis situations, women perceive an increased suitability in their own skills, and are more likely to accept risky leadership positions, Hancock said. “Women see themselves as more communal, and more suitable for these types of precarious positions.”

When women take these positions, they are often “set up to fail. If they don’t succeed, they are blamed for not having the right skills for the job, and are often replaced by men after,” she said. Men who take these clean up positions are not personally blamed, with blame being attributed to the situation.

Along with her research into the challenges facing women leaders, Hancock is researching workplace challenges faced by other diverse groups, including neuro-diverse people, such as people with ADHD, those on the autism spectrum, and people who live and work with chronic invisible illnesses.’

“These are under-researched areas,” she said, and the work “has an ability to make contributions to management literature, and to make an impact for the workplace.”

With a focus on social perceptions, Hancock’s research draws upon concepts and research from Psychology. “It’s going to be great to be part of management department within a social science faculty,” she said. “I do a lot of experimental work, see potential collaborations with people in the department. I’m looking forward to engaging with students, training undergrads in research, and working with research students.”