British Journal of Social Psychology

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Volume 52 Issue 4 (December 2013), Pages 597-792

‘Nice girls don't carry knives': Constructions of ambition in media coverage of Australia's first female prime minister (pages 631-647)

Julia Gillard became the first female prime minister of Australia in 2010. This paper examines the various ways in which her success was constructed in the Australian print media in the days immediately following her elevation. In particular, we focus on how an issue that has long beset women aspiring to power and leadership – the so‐called ‘double bind’ in which aspiring women leaders must display high competence and ambition in traditionally masculine domains while maintaining sufficient femininity so as not to be disliked – was constructed in this high‐profile instance. We discuss the coverage in terms of its implications for the need to create an androgynized presentation of ambition, the continuing relevance of gender stereotypes, and the mixture of threat and opportunity provided to women taking positions on ‘the glass cliff’. These issues remain crucially important for women aspiring to power and leadership in contemporary western societies.

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