A Researcher Profile on Erica Bailey

By Emma Garcia

Can’t or Won’t? How Beliefs about Trait Immutability Impact Women’s Entry into Leadership Positions.

Towards the end of 2023, Erica Bailey began her research project titled Can’t or Won’t? How Beliefs about Trait Immutability Impact Women’s Entry into Leadership Positions. Erica’s research explores the gender disparities within leadership, a topic that has remained a persistent challenge across even the most “well-meaning organizations.” Erica explained to us that past research on this topic has typically gravitated towards exploring the “Big Two,” a tendency to describe how men and women are stereotypically perceived by others. Generally, men are perceived as displaying traits that relate to “individualism, achievement, and mastery” whereas women are typically seen acting in ways that prioritize “connection, cohesion, and warmth.” Erica’s research suggests “asymmetric beliefs in the immutability or malleability of agency and communality differentially predict their value.”

When asked what inspired her to conduct research centered around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Erica recalls her childhood and growing up as a “total bookworm” who excelled at her coursework and found school to be generally quite easy. Even though Erica never seemed to struggle with her abilities in school, she remembers never being seen as “smart or gifted” by her teachers, nor was she placed in any advanced programs. Knowing that she had a love for learning and her studies, she was essentially left to wonder what she was doing to suggest that she was anything less than a stellar student.

Many years later, it became clear to her that gender played a large role in how she was perceived by others. When Erica participated in her male-dominated economics courses she would constantly be talked over by men or have her ideas be dismissed and then repeated by her male classmates, who were then met with praise. She mentions commonly feeling overlooked by her male professors, a belittling experience that discouraged many other women from pursuing the same studies. Erica credits a change in the course of her life to being taught by a young female professor, “a talented gender scholar” who helped her recognize her “own potential.” Erica shares that “this lesson is something that I take with me when I study how people’s identities can cause them to be ignored, de-valued, or excluded — and the life-changing potential when people are willing to see beyond stereotypes.”

Erica believes that Equity Fluent Leaders are those that “signal they are warm, understanding, and empathetic.” Keeping this concept in mind, Erica tries to demonstrate these characteristics when given the opportunity to lead and teach others. When asked to think of an Equity Fluent Leader that inspires her, Erica mentioned Modupe Akinola, a leader who she credits as the person who “has impacted me most as a scholar and an academic.” Erica credits Modupe Akinola’s ability to be self-aware, present, and authentic, stating that these characteristics are what makes Modupe such an effective leader, all while wearing “some of the most amazing outfits you’ve ever seen!” The Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership is honored to support the research of Erica Bailey and we are very excited to see her evolution at the Haas School of Business.



Center for Equity, Gender & Leadership (EGAL)

At the heart of UC Berkeley's Business School, the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership educates equity-fluent leaders to ignite and accelerate change.