HomeLearning CenterRethinking Business- We Need to Welcome ‘Femininity’ into Leadership

Rethinking Business- We Need to Welcome ‘Femininity’ into Leadership

Origainally published by Serena Haththotuwa HR Grapevine

The recent hit Barbie film brought a lot of interesting discourse into the public sphere.

A monologue which involved America Ferreira’s character speaking candidly about the nature of being a woman hit a raw nerve for many across the world. This ‘paradox’ being the societal pressure for women to be paradoxical entities; confident but not a show-off, thin but not too skinny, to be a ‘girl boss’ but not too bossy.

Paradoxes have characterised the female experience for decades, and this is made more complex when translated to the pressures of being a female leader. For example, studies show that women are less likely than men to apply to job roles where they don’t fit every criterion in a job description. Professional women are also more likely to have imposter syndrome and alter their communication style to appear more enthusiastic or accommodating in emails.

Much of this paradox in the professional world also comes from the fact that the business sphere has historically embraced ‘masculine’ over ‘feminine’ characteristics, including qualities such as assertiveness, competitiveness, and an affinity to take risks.

Beyond the systemic sexism that continues to prevail in the business world, proven by the continuing gender pay gap and a blatant lack of funding for female business founders – who receive two pence for every one pound of investment – there continues to be a pressure on managers to lead with the above qualities.

A study from 2018 attributed the leading cause of a lack of female leaders to societal pressures that cause gendered personality traits. Because men tend to be those traits typically associated with business, they are more likely to voice their opinions and be perceived as leaderlike. The researchers also found that showing sensitivity and a concern for others – typically feminine traits – made someone less likely to be seen as a leader.

Let’s not throw shade on ‘masculine’ qualities in a leader or the business world – for many reasons they are necessary. But it’s arguable that also leading with empathy, compassion, and having a calculated approach to risk – which society has stereotypically associated with ‘femininity’ – should be deemed just as valuable to businesses in their path to success.

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