Graduation Date

Fall 2020

Document Type



Master of Arts degree with a major in Psychology, option Academic Research

Committee Chair Name

Amber Gaffney

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Kauyumari Sanchez

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Gregg Gold

Third Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Subject Categories



Women have historically been barred from holding positions of leadership and power. As a result, much of the literature examining women as leaders is narrow in context, focusing mainly on business and political settings (Eagly & Johnson, 1990). The current work contributes to diverse leadership research by analyzing women leaders in the context of the Roman Catholic Church - a historically gender-biased religious organization with no current leadership opportunities for women. The Church’s rigid leadership stance provides an optimal setting for exploring openness to accept change in traditionalist organizations. Previous research on identity leadership has shown that prototypical leaders are influential (Hogg & van Knippenberg, 2003) and that people are open to non-normative perspectives when they experience self-uncertainty (e.g., Gaffney et al., 2014; Rast et al., 2012). As a result, I hypothesized that under conditions of high uncertainty, Catholics would be most supportive of women in the priesthood when the Pope endorsed women as priests than when he did not. However, under low uncertainty, Catholics would be unsupportive of women in the priesthood regardless of the Pope’s endorsement. Additionally, I hypothesized that papal support of women in the priesthood would moderate the relationship between Catholic identification and support for women in priesthood. Two hundred forty-two Catholics participated in this experiment. Though neither hypothesis was supported, this research contributes to a lacking body of knowledge on women in diverse leadership roles, and explores how conservative organizations might ultimately accommodate change.

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