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Women in Leadership

Updated on August 15, 2015

Is there a Difference between Male and Female-Oriented Styles of Leadership?

The number of women in leadership is on the rise in many societies. There are various stereotypes about the leadership styles of women. Some say that women use an interpersonally oriented leadership style, while men use a task oriented leadership style.

Many analysts argue that there is a definite difference between male leadership styles and female leadership styles. The masculine mode of management involves analytic problem solving, unemotional responses to critical issues, high control for the leader, hierarchical authority, and competitiveness.

The feminine mode of leadership mostly involves rationality, empathy; intuition based problem-solving, collaboration of managers and subordinates, and cooperativeness. Women have attributes such as warm and understanding, which are very helpful in reaching clientele and creating a strong relationship between the corporation and their clients.

Women and Leadership, Changing Times

Since time immemorial, the predominant gender in leadership is male. This was in military, politics and various other sectors of the society. Even though women have gained middle management and supervisory positions, they are still few in elite and top executive positions.

Scientific and public discussions have described this phenomenon as a glass ceiling that prevents women from reaching top positions like men. Female leaders undergo prejudice and discrimination. They suffer many stereotypical assumptions about their leadership and sometimes this leads to disrespect and insubordination. There are very few women in major leadership positions despite equality.

The ‘Great Man’ Theory

Leadership theories have contributed to towards hindering the raising of women's profiles in leadership and management roles. In the 18th and 19th century, people believed that leadership belonged to very exceptional and unique people. They had a theory called the 'Great Man' theory. In this theory, the great man needed to be very distinctly different from his followers and they believed that very few people had this kind of leadership. They believed that leadership qualities were innate.

During those times, no one ever imagined women as possible leaders in any capacity. This theory did not raise women's profiles as leaders. Some women played the role of helpers; however, they were exempt from any leadership whatsoever.

Gender Based Roles

In addition to the 'Great Man' theory, there were gender difference theories. People believed that men and women were different in every possible way. They had different attitudes, skills, and behaviors. People considered it a handicap for women and this prevented them from progressing and advancing in their careers. Many researchers have since attempted to establish whether the differences between men and women are biological or otherwise.

In the past people believed that, women were deficient. In the late 19th Century, after studying both women and men in their younger ages, they established that the two genders are functionally the same. They also had similar temperament, cognitive, and behavioral tendencies. This proves that the theory was almost entirely wrong.

Women at the top of Corporates

On the theory of the glass ceiling, women find it difficult to move up the corporate ladder. On the other hand, men find it very easy to achieve the same thing. The theoretical glass ceiling is a springboard for men and a hindrance for women. However, recently, a few women have managed to break the glass ceiling.

The problem is that, even after breaking the glass ceiling and attaining the leadership positions, their supervisors place them under strict scrutiny. Sometimes, when evaluating them, they use a different standard for men and women making it harder for women to seem like they are performing well. Some researchers argue that the difference in their reviews is because women have different leadership styles when compared to men. Therefore, when using a masculine standard, women perform poorly, but using a feminine standard, they perform very well.

Women as Leaders

Recent studies suggest that having women in leadership positions such as boards of governors and top management has negative impacts to the company. This is despite the fact that people in the business community view the breaking of the glass ceiling as a good thing. According to these studies, companies with women in their boards perform poorly when compared to those with an all-male board representation.

The poorest performing companies all have women in their boards and there is none with an all-male board. However, some researchers refute this argument because the research only involves a study for one year. This phenomenon therefore has a different explanation. This is that, the poor performance of these companies has led to them hiring women on their boards. Therefore the women are there as a solution and not a problem.

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    • writejt profile image

      ROY T JAMES 2 years ago from chennai, india

      I fully agree with the obsevations ragarding rationality, empathy, intuition based problem-solving as well as the co-operative approach of the better half of the human race. But I feel that the 'great man' theory alone is not enough to explain their lack of direcct involvement in leadership positions.

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