Purpose: Informed by the role congruity theory of prejudice towards female leaders, this paper aims to review the literature on gender and leadership to consolidate existing theory development, stimulate new thinking and provide a framework for future empirical studies. It offers a theoretical framework to understand what may prevent or facilitate the emergence of female leaders. Design/methodology/approach: The paper reviews and synthesises recent research on the linkages between gender and leadership. Findings: The review extends Eagly and Karau’s (2002) role congruity theory by identifying additional constructs that may alleviate negative prejudicial evaluations and offering new insights into the potential alignment between feminine traits and leadership success. Practical implications: The theoretical framework that emerged in this paper may be used as a heuristic model to contextually examine the lack of female leaders. Originality/value: The paper proposes a theoretical framework to understand issues related to the emergence of female leaders. It offers news insights into possible alignment in female-leader role stereotypes that may address prejudicial evaluations against female leaders.