The Motivation-Influence-Ability (MIA) Model of Agency for Gender and Leadership

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Contradictory findings about whether agentic women are advantaged or disadvantaged persist in gender and leadership research. I suggest that these tensions may stem from ambiguities regarding the definition, content, and structure of agency. Across nine studies, I propose a motivation-influence-ability (MIA) multifactor model of agency perceptions that seeks to reconcile ambiguities surrounding the agency construct. The MIA model of agency reflects the distinct ways in which agency perceptions have been measured in gender and leadership research over 44 years. Exploratory factor analysis (pilot study) and confirmatory factor analyses across diverse independent samples support a multifactor structure of agency with six factors: ambitious agency, dominant agency, competent agency, self-assured agency, hardworking agency, and independent agency (Studies 1 to 4, Studies S1 to S3). Discriminant and convergent validity with gender stereotype (Study 2) and leadership (Study 3) measures were established. Additional psychometric analyses revealed measurement invariance across participant’s gender, supervisor’s leader, online vs. non-online samples, and time (Study S1). Further, I found that the six-factor model predicted more variance in perceived promotability relative to the existing one-factor model (Studies S2 and S3). In addition to demonstrating that the model has desirable psychometric properties, I also show that conceptualizing agency in a more nuanced way reconciles existing tensions within the gender and leadership literature and also leads to a different understanding of past conclusions. Women are advantaged when they are perceived as self-assured, independent, competent, and hardworking but penalized when they are perceived as dominant (Study 4). Finally, an experiment revealed that agentic advantage was driven by a positive expectancy violation effect (Study S4), such that only people who believed that women who are less competent than men (i.e., those who subscribed to descriptive gender stereotypes) evaluated the highly competent female leader as more effective than the highly competent male leader.





Ma, Anyi (2020). The Motivation-Influence-Ability (MIA) Model of Agency for Gender and Leadership. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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