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Beyond Inclusion Through Female Empowered Leadership: Status and Strategy in Iceland


Many regions of the world have begun to recognize the value of female leadership. However, very few models have emerged through which female leadership situates itself into a society as viable and necessary. The purpose of this study is to highlight strategies characterized by an ethic of gender equality to construct female leadership as legitimate in the larger cultural context. We propose Iceland provides a model case with many gains towards gender equality. In this qualitative study, we use interview data to gain perspectives on leadership processes that promote an ethic of gender equality. The data illustrate a restructuring of status hierarchies that have historically maintained inequality, while highlighting historical events that have influenced interactional contexts of female leadership in Iceland. We outline and explain the overarching leadership strategy themes: (1) role modeling, (2) inclusive discussion culture, and (3) legislated equality. These three themes appear to give female leadership legitimacy, and we suggest such research will allow us, as a global community, to develop more valid theories of status interventions that promote ethics of equality.

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  1. These two definitions refer to gender in different contexts, in defining gender equality we do not suggest a dichotomization of gender but rather a way to conceptualize equality when referring to the differences in rights afforded men and women.

  2. Status beliefs are at the center of how actors evaluate each other and behave towards one another [ 30].

  3. Refer to Fig. 1 for graph data of each countries Gender Gap Score, 2006 and 2020.

  4. Pirate parties customarily support civil rights, direct democracy, and or reform that allows for free sharing of information.


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Partial support for this research was provided by AFOSR grant # 21USCOR004. Opinions, interpretations, conclusions and recommendations are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by the United States Air Force Academy, United States Air Force or Department of Defense.


Funding was provided by AFSOR (AFOSR Grant # 21USCOR004).

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Correspondence to Amanda Metcalfe.

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There are no financial or non-financial interests to disclose. No conflicts of interest are known to exist for this submitted research. Partial support for this research was provided by AFOSR grant # 21USCOR004. No additional support from any other organization was received for the submitted work.

Informed Consent

Action Research Group Informed Consent forms were provided to each participant before interviews ensued.

Research Involving Human Participants

Ethics approval and consent to involve human participants was reviewed by a third-party research group (ARG) and in collaboration with the United States Air Force Academy’s IRB with the following determination: “Although this activity does meet the definition of research under 32 CFR 219.102(d), and the research does involve data about living human individuals, the researchers will not obtain said data by interacting directly with the individuals. Furthermore, the data the researchers will obtain will not be identifiable. Therefore, this activity does not constitute research with human subjects as defined in 32 CFR 219.102(d) and 32 CFR 219.102(f).”. Transcripts and subsequent coded data can be made available by the primary investigator, Amanda Metcalfe.

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See Figs. 1, 2 and Table 1

Fig. 1
figure 1

The Gender Gap Index quantifies the gaps between women and men in four key areas: health, education, economy, and politics

Fig. 2
figure 2

Leadership themes

Table 1 Interview questions

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Metcalfe, A., Hueffner, A. & Suss, J.M. Beyond Inclusion Through Female Empowered Leadership: Status and Strategy in Iceland. Gend. Issues (2022).

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  • Women leaders
  • Leadership
  • Social strategy
  • Iceland
  • Expectation states theory
  • Gender
  • Political strategy