Socially disadvantaged individuals often encounter resistance when they rise to high-status positions. For example, women, according to status characteristics theory, will be disadvantaged relative to men in social interactions, other things being equal. Institutionalizing women as leaders may overcome such disadvantages. Drawing from status characteristics theory and institutional theory, it is predicted that institutionalization of female leadership can reduce the influence gap between women and men by legitimating structures of female leadership. Results of an experiment conducted to test this idea show that, as predicted, male leaders attained higher influence than did female leaders, and leaders appointed on ability attained higher influence than did randomly assigned leaders. Institutionalization, however, reduced the advantage of men such that female leaders appointed on ability when female leadership was institutionalized attained influence as high as male leaders appointed on ability when female leadership was not institutionalized.