Gender and Leadership

Gender and leadership is a very broad topic focusing on different aspects of the roles of men and women in the workforce. Diversity in leadership celebrates more creative ideas and opportunities for an organization. As of June 2019, 33 highest-grossing films out of the 500 fortune list were led by female CEOs. The number might be minimal but it is a huge jump from 2018s total of 24.


What is a Glass Ceiling?- gender and leadership

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When it comes to inclusion in the workforce, women are still unprecedented in the upper ranks of a corporation. Women tend to go through years of working but somehow promotions and opportunities are not rewarded as much.

In recent times, where we have begun to witness women taking over highly ranked positions in the government, private corporations, and decision making bodies, however, if we peek closely to the elite position the scenario is quite different. Women represent only 6.6% of fortune 500 CEOs, 16.9% of the fortune 500 board seats, and a mere 14.6%of the fortune 500 executive officer positions.

The invisible barrier that prevents women from uplifting their career into elite position is defined as the glass ceiling. Other reformers also identify that the glass ceiling metaphor implies that all women have equal access to lower positions until they all hit an invisible barrier to acclaim higher positions. Instead they offer an alternative approach towards the issue and that is referred to as the ‘leadership labyrinth’

What is the leadership labyrinth?

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The concept of leadership labyrinth is backed by the phenomenon of the gender gap in leadership. The gender gap in leadership is identified as the global occurrence where women are concentrated in the lower positions and lower-ranked jobs as compared to men.  In line with the concept of leadership labyrinth, there are three major reasons for the prevailing gender gap in leadership.

Why the Gender Gap?

 The first one is ‘the differences between the investment of men and women in human capital.’ Dating back to when industries were blooming and when the influx of workers was at the maximum, business tycoons invested more in men for training and skill polishing. Another problem is the differences in investment in education. This leads to a relatively small number of qualified women, which in turn translates to little opportunities. Women are less likely to receive encouragement to be included in key networks and decision making bodies. Moreover, women also tend to have relatively lesser work experience than men. This may be because of frequent career breaks to bear and rear children and marriage.

The second reason is ‘the gender differences between men and women.’ This statement reinforces and builds on the existent gender roles of how women are supposed to foster home care and men must work to feed for the family.  Women tend to have different leadership styles derived from the masculine and feminine traits. The leadership styles of women may not fit well with other male employees of the business and hence cause disruption and disorientation.  Women tend to lead in a more interpersonal manner as compared to men who are more task-oriented. However, that does not mean women are less effective in leading positions. On the contrary, research shows that men and women were equally effective especially when dealing with subordinates congruent to their gender.

The third reason is ‘the prejudice and discrimination against female leaders.’ In some countries where men have been dominant rulers and where gender roles and divisions are deeply entrenched into the minds of people, it is very difficult for women to rule or even acclaim highly ranked positions. The prejudice stems from the prevalent stereotypes. Women have a stigma attached to going out to work, let alone lead. It is often perceived that people in leading positions must be tough and strong, which will prove to be ‘too manly’ or ‘too masculine’ for women. These opposing expectations force women to stay low when it comes to their careers. People do not accept women to be effective leaders given the associated feminine traits.

Also read: Gender across Cultures