Women’s Roles in Leadership Positions

10 October 2016

The roles of women have been evolving for the last 100 years. Many women have shattered the stereotype that a women’s role is to be in charge of the family and have become leaders in a walks of life. Women have proved that they can be effective as business and government leaders. Although there are still gender biases that can exist, it is much move covert then it was 40 years ago.

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Oddly enough, some of the characteristics that have been viewed as the most necessary for leadership in roles of men, those same traits were viewed as negative characteristics of women in leadership roles. The role of the women has been evolving for many decades. In times, way before my own, a woman’s role was to be the caregiver for her family. Although women, many have sought out an education, their main lifetime focus to be to support her husband and raise her children.

Many women still choose this role today, but the point is that now they are allowed to choose a specific pathway in life rather than being forced to carry out established roles. This change of women’s roles has been occurring in the United States for the last hundred years. Although this may seem like a long period of time, it is not. When roles are changed or reversed, this does not necessarily mean that everyone instantly converts to the new ideas and philosophies demonstrated by a group.

Often times, there is a great deal of protest both within the changing group as well as those outside of the group. Despite the evolved roles of women in society, women still face many challenges in leadership positions. There are qualities that women possess that seem to help them rise to the top echelon of leadership positions, but there are still biases that exist that may inhibit women from reaching their goals. Women won the right to vote in the 1920’s; however, it wasn’t until the 1960’s that the “Women’s Movement” began.

Granted women’s roles had been changing for 40 years prior to the Women’s Movement, it was clear that this was not a natural evolution. Many people, both men and women, challenged the idea of a woman as an independent, productive citizen. Many women were ready to be seen and valued differently, but just because a group wants to be seen differently, does not mean that that is going to happen. This is usually the pivotal moment for most movements in History. A group seeks changes that others are adverse to seeing happen. The women’s movement called for fundamental changes in the roles of women.

No longer did women want to be seen as the caregiver of the home, they wanted to be seen as independent people who could make important decisions and choose their educational and professional pathways. Today, in the United States of America, women are on a more equal footing with men in most cases: often by necessity, where women cannot complete in the workplace for jobs that were one traditionally held my men, also in light of two –parent working households. Although most career and professional opportunities are open to women in this country, there are still major discrepancies in the leadership positions that women hold.

Among the US population 25 and above, 34 percent of women have obtained a Bachelor’s degree compared with 30 percent of men. Of Graduate degree’s held, women dominate that group with 39 percent of Graduate Degrees being held by men. Versus 21% percent, which are held by men. It would be appropriate after viewing these statistics, that one could assume that women hold the same, if not more, of the top leadership positions in business and politics, but this, in fact, is not the case.

Forbes Magazine (2011) created and published a study with an emphasis breakdown on women’s roles in top leadership positions. Only 6 percent of Fortune 100 CEO’s are women • Only 8 percent of technology startup companies are lead by women • Only 9 percent of contributors on Wikipedia are women • Women account for only a tenth of the voting power on the words’ key interest rates • Only 13 percent of the top 100 billionaires worldwide are women • Only 15 percent of senior industry management positions belong to women. • Less than 18 percent of Congressional seats are held by women. Clearly, this poses a question about why women are still not sharing equal roles with men in the top leadership positions in this country.

There are many different reasons for these statistics. One reason for this “leadership gap” is that women just don’t ask. This idea is explored by Babcock and Laschever (2007) in the book Women Don’t Ask by Babcock and Laschever. When Babcock questioned many graduate male students were teaching their own course while women were taking on the roles of assistants, her dean stated, ” More men ask. The women just don’t ask. ” It turns out, that women are just more likely than men to ask for promotions or raises. This may be due to the facts that some women aren’t aware they should be asking and other women are fearful or damaging relationships.

One interesting point to note is that a leadership characteristic that is identified differently in men and women is aggression. Many people positively define aggression as a positive leadership trait in men, but that exact same trait is viewed as negative in a women. Therefore, a women many sense that being aggressive may cause more harm than good when trying to obtain a high level position. Research published by Northhouse in his book Leadership, has also shown that women are more likely to take a passive role in obtaining leadership positions.

They are more reluctant to be assertive in asking for positions, and try to obtain those roles through relationships and opportunity. (p. 357) In essence, it is a “double edged sword for a woman”. There is also no question that gender stereotypes still exist. Oddly enough, these stereotypes may produce more harm in the 21st century because they are more covert and hard to recognize. The show, Mad Men, shows how women were treated in the workplace. The sexual harassment and belittlement of women was obvious and apparent.

Women were expected to fill certain roles in the workplace and men had no issues openly expressing their ideas on women’s roles. Now, there is to be no such divide between genders. In fact, gender discrimination is breaking the law, so no longer can discrimination exist in any work place. However, this does not mean that these biases and feelings don’t exist. On the contrary, there may be many people who feel like women are not capable of performing certain tasks, but because gender discrimination is illegal, these ideas are not openly shared, but that certainly doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

Despite these things, many women have found success in the political and work setting. Interestingly, Dominance, aggression and assertiveness are not viewed as positive traits in women leaders, but these are the traits most people would identify with the top echelon leaders of the world, both politically and financially. So, what are some of the attributes that are seen in successful women? Five characteristics that most successful women share are: determination, resourcefulness, ambition, confidence, and the ability to create a maintain relationships. A successful woman is determined to have it all and make things work.

At www. Successful Women. com, a guest writer describes the attributes of successful women… determination, resourcefulness, engagement, ambition and confidence. Determination means having a strategic plan to accomplish a goal and now allowing anything or anyone to get in the way of that goal. True leaders know their best resource is in the hearts and minds of the people they are leading. There’s not much more that causes distrust then a leader who claims to know everything about everything. A good leader must be able to be resourceful and find answers and solutions quickly.

There is no question that ambition plays a large role in the making of a successful female leader. Women without ambition rarely achieve greatness. Queen Elizabeth I gave up the chance at a family (and had her own sister imprisoned) in order to rule England. Susan B. Anthony and many other suffragettes risked being ostracized and thrown in jail in order to spread the message of women’s equality. Throughout history, the most successful women have been willing to take control of their own lives and do whatever was necessary to reach their goals.

Probably the most important character trait of a female leader is confidence. Of course, it is imperative for someone to have the skills, but most people will argue that confidence is the key to becoming a successful leader. Imagine trying to get a group to follow someone who lacks self-confidence and shows fear for a task. A leader with confidence acts with decisiveness and passion, which cause subordinates to feel like they can count on their leader. Another key trait is the ability to create and maintain appropriate professional relationships.

Women must show enough empathy so that their subordinates feel supported, but not too much emotion as to get over involved with ones co workers, colleagues or subordinates. This is the “make it or break it” trait for many female leaders. People seem to be more conscious of the relationship that a women has with her subordinates. If a woman is seen as too empathetic, these may be seen as a weakness. If a women seems void of emotion, people may not feel comfortable or like they are able to “fit in”. Women’s roles have been evolving for over 100 years.

The road has been paved for a woman to make decisions about the course she chooses to live her life. The roadblocks for women have been moved out of the way. Regardless of gender biases that may still exist, a woman can be whatever she chooses to be. This does not meet that the leadership role is easy. For men and women alike, begin an effective leader is challenging ad requires special and specific characteristics to be effective.

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