Washington: Women have advanced by leaps and bounds in every field of life. But when it comes to play leadership roles, they still face cultural stereotypes as the society doesn't think they are natural leaders, a new study has found.

A new meta-analysis by a team of researchers from the Northwestern University showed that even today leadership continues to be viewed as culturally masculine and society doesn't like women playing this role.

"Women are viewed as less qualified or natural in most leadership roles, the research shows, and secondly, when women adopt culturally masculine behaviours often required by these roles, they may be viewed as inappropriate or presumptuous," the researchers said.

Past research has found that predominantly “communal" qualities, such as being nice or compassionate, are associated with women, and predominantly "agentic" qualities, such as being assertive or competitive, are associated with men.

It is these agentic -- or manly -- qualities that are believed to be essential to successful leadership. Because men fit the cultural stereotype of leadership better than women, they have better access to leadership roles and face fewer challenges in becoming successful, a website reported.

The good news for women is that the study found that people's attitudes toward women in leadership are changing, the team reported in the journal Psychological Bulletin.

Although women still face these prejudices, these biases are not held as strongly as they used to be, they said.

"Cultural stereotypes can make it seem that women do not have what it takes for important leadership roles, thereby adding to the barriers that women encounter in attaining roles that yield substantial power and authority," said Professor Alice Eagly, the co-author of the study.

"Women's experiences will differ depending on their culture. We would like to have more data from different nations, and also sub-cultural data within the US that takes race and social class into account, but that's something to look to in the future.”

(Agencies)