Myths about women leadership

Continued from last week

While women have in the past years moved toward greater gender equality in diverse spheres of life, the glaring fact is that women are still under-represented in leadership roles and still face a lot of challenges moving up as this is considered an anomaly in the world where men reign supreme.

The effect of stereotypic gender role beliefs and traditional expectations based on unfounded theories of gender abilities and what leadership roles should be, made it an herculean task for women to attain leadership unlike their male counterparts; women’s perceived traditional roles pose obstacles to leadership and result in double standards, hypocrisy and lack of objectivity most particularly on issues bordering on assessments.

It is a fact that female leadership matters for better results because studies have shown that organisations with greater gender diversity among senior staff are more profitable. Women leadership is important in our world because it gives better results because women leaders have a measurable impact on the bottom line.

Consequently, the world today cannot afford to hold onto biased, traditional, myopic or neutral gender views on leadership; no one can sit on the fence, if truly we desire a change that will allow women attain their potential. There is a need to change our views of leadership to promote more robust theories and diverse models of effective leadership. And this is not only for the men, many women are boggled down with traditional restraints that when they see their counterparts  trying to move up and strive for leadership positions, they believe it is an aberration and find it difficult to give support.

To such women, any female aspiring for leadership is contesting with men and is upturning the order of God and creation. It is the general belief in such circles that women that dream and aim for more are wayward, cannot be good mothers, are not lovers of God and cannot keep a home because they cannot be submissive. These beliefs are fallacious and unfounded.

While current leadership theories favour transformational and collaborative leadership styles, organisational cultures and internal politics cum godfatherism often mirror social constructions of gender and ethnicity norms in society. Atimes, there is a dichotomy between hierarchical and collaborative forms of leadership reflected in contradictory sets of practices and though women leaders may have an advantage in such contexts, they also face obstacles in needing to change organisational cultures that mirror social biases against women as leaders.

While women have, over the years, moved increasingly towards greater gender equality at home, workplace and in the society, they are still underrepresented where it matters especially in policy making. And though changes in gender roles and lifestyles have occurred with some men now sharing more in household chores and childrearing, the belief about women leadership capabilities remain generally traditional and while social rules of etiquette and gender roles are now more flexible and equity within the marital relationship getting recognised, there is more work to be done to sensitise people that giving women a voice is not a taboo or aberration as seen by many.

This is because researches have proved that women have the ability to navigate life in and outside the home easily and freely and multitask than men.

In spite of this, many women now work outside the home and form a large percentage of the work force but still, women are still underrepresented in leadership roles in corporations, institutions of higher education, and the political sector especially in light of the changing population demographics.

Consequently, while so much have changed; so much have not. Even in places where women leaders are allowed, they are generally portrayed as soft or extremely harsh, bossy, emotional, manipulative, domineering and ineffective. This is still part of the biases against women leadership that stem from perceived expectations and traditional or societal bias.

While there had been major landmark achievements by women leaders, the false perceptions persist strongly. This is basically because cultural and religious biases are deeply woven into the fabric of our society.

Is there bias against women leaders? Yes. People expect them to misbehave, they expect them not to have control and be power drunk among others.

To be continued


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