Gender Differences in Leadership Essay

Gender stereotypes are very resistant to change. They demonstrate stereotypic beliefs about the attributes of men and women. “The stereotype of men is more similar to stereotype of leaders,” (Eagly, 2007). Because of that women are not seen as “tough enough” or having “what it takes” to perform at the top level. Men’s stereotype characteristics are confidence, assertiveness, independence, rationalization, and decisiveness, whereas women’s are concern for others, sensitivity, nurturance, helpfulness and warmth (Deaux & Kate, 1993; Heilman, 2001).

It is evident from research that people think “male” when they think “leader”, they always see assertive, dominant behavior as typical amongst leaders, and find it atypical and unattractive in women.

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Studies of female and male leaders (Eagly, Makhijani, Klonsky, 1992) revealed that when women demonstrate competent leadership within a clearly masculine arena—they are disliked, disparaged and devalued. Women state that they do not feel listened to, or when they speak in meetings their comments and suggestions are ignored or belittled, and that the same suggestions from men have more impact.

I don’t have a traditionally female way of speaking…I’m quite assertive. If I didn’t speak the way I do, I wouldn’t have been seen as a leader. But my way of speaking may have grated on people who were not used to hearing it from a woman. It was the right way for a leader to speak but it wasn’t the right way for a woman to speak. It goes against type. Kim Campbell (prime minister of Canada)1993 Many studies have been undertaken to find out why women are still in a distinct minority when it comes to the top jobs.

The important factors is that majority of women see themselves more as followers than as leaders, and consider themselves as less innovative and strategic. Women are less likely than man to promote themselves for leadership positions (Bowels & McGinn, 2005). Women pay more attention to people-related issues and quality performance, whereas men more concerned about effective control of emotions and an extraverted attitude toward their environment. When women act as leaders, using typically men’s characteristics, they are perceived as being tough, because they act against the female icon profile that has been developed by society.

If they act like women in their leadership style, they are perceived as being inefficient and passive leaders, since typically male personality traits are perceived as more effective leadership characteristics. One gender difference that favors men in leadership, is that men are more likely than women to ask for what they want (Babcock & Laschever, 2003). Negotiation and self-promotion are considered being two of the important factors for reaching the elite level positions and to break through the glass ceiling. The Glass Ceiling The Glass Ceiling” refers to an invisible barrier which prevents women or any other minority suitable for the position to reach the next level within the hierarchy of an organization. Number of women in the lower-level and middle-level management and administrative positions significantly increased in the past 40 years, but in the corporate C-sector level there is only 15-16%, and according to research this number has not changed since 2002. About 17% percent of women serve in Senate, 16. 8% holding seats in the House.

It looks like not many women can find a way to break through the “glass ceiling” into higher leadership positions, or there are many obstacles on the way that we need to overcome. Hillary Clinton recently put “18 million cracks” in the presidential glass ceiling and Nancy Pelosi made history becoming the first female speaker of the House (center for American Women and Politics, 2009). There is recent evidence on increasing involvement of men in the childcare and housework (Eagly & Carli, 2007). Many organizations beginning to change the view on women leaders and it makes easier for them to reach the top.

To break through the glass ceiling women have to be proactive. They need to come up with strategic success plan. Women leaders should not sit and wait to be noticed, instead they have to uncover needs of the superior, and make amends in their strategic plan to include tactics that will address those needs. They must seek out opportunities for training, serve on committee, and work on high-profile projects. It is important that they choose the profession or work that can be enjoyable because it will complement their strengths and personality traits and will help overcome the obstacles they might encounter.

Women leaders must promote themselves and be visible, ask for increased responsibilities and take on difficult challenges and risks. Women in leadership positions need to be aware of obstacles; try to connect with those in power, seek out mentors and constantly improve their skills because their achievement and connections will help to break the glass. They need to make sure the expectations they set are realistic to prevent the failure, find key issues in complex situations to demonstrate that they are executive material.

Be better that others, exceed their level of performance, since research demonstrates that those who reached the top always performed higher than average. Leadership Labyrinth The word Labyrinth is used as leadership terminology to convey the complexity and variety of challenges that can appear along the way towards reaching the top leadership roles. It is easy to picture any women in leadership role struggling to find the right way to go in the labyrinth full of twists, turns, obstacles and dead ends.

In order to pass through the labyrinth one should be persistent, have self-awareness and carefully select the paths. There are many challenges that women face, such as family responsibility, discrimination, issues of leadership styles and many others. The most faithful turns in the labyrinth are the ones that relate to family responsibilities. Women continue to be the ones that interrupt their careers, take more days off and work part-time, and as the result they have less years of job experience, less hours of work per year and it slows their career growth.

Women do have somewhat less work experience and employment continuity than men, driven largely by disproportionate responsibility, women assume for child rearing and domestic duties (Bowles & McGinn, 2005; Eagly & Carli, 2007). Women, who found the way to relive pressure from the home responsibilities by sharing the child care with husbands, relatives or paid care, are not filing satisfied and not enjoying their work because of their mothering instincts.

Some women choose not to marry or have children, others choose part-time employment to juggle work-home conflicts ( Hewlett, 2002; Nieva & Gutek, 1981). The decision makers usually do not promote women with young kids to demanding positions, assuming it being inappropriate to promote mothers with domestic responsibilities. Transformational Leadership and Women Every woman has natural leadership and organizational skills. Traditional stereotype of a woman has been always the same.

Woman is the true leader of the family; she finds harmony and balance in the family, sets a new renovation projects in her home, supervises the house, sets responsibilities for all members of the family to assure that continuous progress is in place. According to research women were found to be transformational leaders. Their style often considered to be motivating and inspirational. They defined as role models, mentors who empowered workers and encouraged innovation, even if the organizations were generally successful (Eagly & Carli, 2007).

Women also scored higher than men on some of transactional aspects, such us rewarding employees for good performance, whereas men scored higher on using punishment. Their style often considered to be motivating and inspirational. A transformational leadership style may be more favorable to women because this way of leading is genderless and possesses some nurturing, feminine aspects. They can lead by teaching, developing and nurturing workers’ abilities and inspire them to become outstanding contributors. So what…Now what…

Woman – is first and foremost a mother, and than she is a manager, director or a president. It always has been, it is, and I hope it always will be. Recently, women are dominating in management world and are very successful, and the question is: “Do they want to go higher up? ” I think this is an individual decision but before making that decision, women need to weight it well and give it a good thought. They need to begin with the “end in mind” (Covey, 2004). Not many women reached the C-level positions for various reasons, but many tried.

Understanding “the Glass Ceiling” concept, Leadership labyrinth, and many other obstacles on the women-leader way to elite top leadership roles, we can see that it is doable but it takes a strong person to reach it. A person who will see through the glass and after many failures will still rise and try again. That is the only way. Before they try, identifying what they want and what is right for them – is very important. Also, knowing who they are and what they are capable of. They should try not to be the mediocre women and have a great vision and strategic plan.

Another importance is that women-leaders need to sit at the table – prove, argue, take risks. They must be active listeners without being frighten to interrupt, and when interrupting- they must know what they are talking about. Women in leadership roles need to be aware of obstacles and be ready to remove them; seek opportunities for training, education and have many different mentors. Finally, they should be ready to fail in order to succeed. Conclusion In a modern male dominant society it is so easy to favor man in the leadership position in comparison to women.

However we simply forget that a woman in order to succeed in the leadership position has to play a man’s role, in other words not to be herself, and then go home to her loved ones and be able to switch back to a caring mother, a thoughtful daughter and a loving wife.

References

Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. New York, NY: Free Press. Quinn, R. E. (1996). Deep Change: Discovering the leader within. San Francisco, CA: A Wiley Imprint. Bowles & McGinn, 2005. Why the best man for the job is a woman. New York: HarperCollins Heilman, M. E (2001). Description and prescription: How gender stereotypes prevent women’s ascent up the organizational ladder. Journal of Social Issues, 657-674. Babcock, L. , & Laschever, S. (2003). Women don’t ask: Negotiation and the gender divide. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University press. Eagly, A. H. , & Carli, L. L. (2007). Through the labyrinth: The truth about how women become leaders: Boston: Harvard Business School Press. Hewlett, S. A. (2002). Creating a life: Professional women and a quest for children. New York: Talk Miramax. Nieva, V. E. , & Gutek, B. A(1981) Women and work: A psychological perspective. New York: Praeger

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