Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 June 2020
As more women attain executive office, it is important to understand how gender dynamics affect international politics. Toward this end, we present the first evidence that gender stereotypes affect leaders’ abilities to generate audience costs. Using survey experiments, we show that female leaders have political incentives to combat gender stereotypes that women are weak by acting “tough” during international military crises. Most prominently, we find evidence that female leaders, and male leaders facing female opponents, pay greater inconsistency costs for backing down from threats than male leaders do against fellow men. These findings point to particular advantages and disadvantages women have in international crises. Namely, female leaders are better able to tie hands—an efficient mechanism for establishing credibility in crises. However, this bargaining advantage means female leaders will also have a harder time backing down from threats. Our findings have critical implications for debates over the effects of greater gender equality in executive offices worldwide.