What Is Female Leadership And Why Do We Need It?
International Women’s Day and Equal Pay Day resurface topics about the inequality between men and women in the workplace, how the mental load is not equally distributed and how little women are still on boards of directors or C-level positions.
People are known to change out of pain or for pleasure. So if we want employees and managers to see the advantages of having more women in management and leadership positions in general, it would be helpful to look at it from a perspective of opportunity, instead of threat.
Let’s broaden the topic and not only think of women in leadership, but of allowing more characteristically “female” attributes in leadership per se. After all, not all men are alpha male and want to embrace the typical male leadership style that is present in numerous corporations and endorsed by some of the world leaders.
Arwa Mahdawi did an excellent job in collecting lessons from women in power in her book “Strong female lead” where she says that “effective leaders demonstrate all the qualities we’ve looked at so far: they build trust, they avoid ego, they collaborate”. No notion of the word “woman” here, but most probably also not the first words to describe your male manager.
Female vs male attributes
It goes without saying that everyone has certain (conscious and unconscious) biases and they also influence how we perceive people, ourselves included. Research by David G. Smith, Judith E. Rosenstein, and Margaret C. Nikolov shows that men and women leaders are described in different ways, even though they performed equally well based on more objective measures.
Surprised? Interestingly enough, there are also many more words to describe women in a negative way than in a positive one. It is the other way round for men. “Compassionate” rates as number one among the positive words to describe a female manager’s performance. For males, it is “analytical”. Would you rather have a compassionate or an analytical leader? And why doesn’t “compassionate” feature on the list to describe men in performance reviews?
Speaking of perception, let’s see which attributes have been associated with women and men over time. By going through more than 65 million words of child and adult language media (incl. books, speech and audiovisual media), a group of researchers found out how men and women are usually described. When it comes to adult-directed speech, the most common trait of a woman is “pleasant”, and the one for a man is “polished”.