The aim of this dissertation is to examine gender differences in leadership aspiration. Although some important work regarding gender-specific aspiration has been done already, conditions fostering leadership aspiration – particularly among women – are not completely understood. Therefore, the focus of this dissertation is on assessing the potential impact of the organizational environment, including formal and informal elements, as well as relevant actors and their respective impact on female leadership aspiration.

The four empirical chapters of this dissertation advance our understanding which conditions are of importance in terms of stimulating women’s leadership aspiration. Firstly, we directed our attention towards examining the role of the individual’s supervisor. Particularly the supervisor is important for women as women have less access to mentors or informal networks. Our results show the importance of supervisor gender for female leadership aspiration as women reporting to a female supervisor report higher levels of support and control and as a result display higher leadership aspiration.

In addition to looking at the supervisor, we also focused on work life initiatives, being initiatives targeted at helping employees to balance their work and private life by facilitating their integration. Understanding whether these initiatives have an impact is essential as women are still faced with more domestic responsibilities than men. Our findings show that although work life initiatives are positively related to the aspiration to lead for both genders, they have a greater influence on women’s aspiration.

Apart from looking at the supervisor and formal initiatives, we were also interested to understand how informal elements within the organizational environment impact leadership aspiration. Therefore, we assessed the impact of cooperative climate, being defined as a climate in which team spirit and cooperation among employees are pronounced. We predicted and showed that men and women are more responsive to different elements within such a cooperative climate, mapping to their gender-specific disposal to different self-construals. As women are more disposed to a relational self-construal we predicted and showed that their leadership aspiration is more responsive to cooperative interpersonal relationships, i.e. with their coworkers, within the organization. Contrary to women, men are more disposed to a collective self-construal, defining themselves in terms of group membership, and consequently we hypothesized and verified that their leadership aspiration is more effected by a cooperative individual relationship with the organization.

Eventually, we were also interested to understand whether the interplay between the organization and the individual plays an important role in influencing leadership aspiration. Therefore we zoomed in on organizational identification, being the individual’s perception of considering him-/ herself and the organization itself as an entity, and examined whether this construct features an impact on leadership aspiration. As predicted we showed that high organizational identification is linked to female leadership aspiration.

In sum, our findings highlight different important precursors of women’s leadership aspiration within the organizational environment and point to interesting avenues for future research and beneficial implications for practitioners alike striving towards increasing female leadership aspiration.