Is Gender a Determinant of Leadership Style?. 5
Leadership as Gender-Impartial 5
Cultural Constraints and Barriers to Women National Leadership. 9
Women in National Leadership Positions. 9
Present Female Heads of Government and State. 11
This essay posits to the impact of women in national leadership, in contemporary times. There has been a fresh proliferation in literature on women in national leadership. Numerous researchers have demonstrated their interested in women leadership styles in an endeavor to discover resemblances and disparities in the male and female approaches towards leadership. However, the findings of several of these studies are outstandingly contradictory and at the hub of the controversy is the link between leadership and gender. For a number of other scholars, the career paths as well as experiences of female leaders’ have drawn their interest. This theme is imperative to explain gender differences in regard to leadership experiences, because men and women’s upbringing, family, as well as, professional lives influence persons in different ways. In an effort to explain the reason as to why women are extremely scantily represented in senior national leadership positions, an emergent body of research has investigated the impediments that women encounter in accessing national leadership and even as they fill their roles. Whatsoever these impediments are termed, either vertical/horizontal, internal/external or even cultural, these results reveal the challenges and obstacles that women encounter. One complexity women encounter in their access to national leadership roles as well as career progression is the lack of formal as well as informal encouragement and support. Consequently, another concern that attracts the interest of several scholars is empowerment of women with programs such as networking, work shadowing, and mentoring (Avolio, 2011).
The themes stated above may not cover all the concerns on women and national leadership, but they represent the themes most frequently established in studying in this field. It would be suitable to begin with a discussion concerning the contentious relationship between leadership and gender, arguing that the latter influences the former. Women’s style of leadership and the impediments to their career development are afterward reviewed. While culture is identified as a foremost obstacle to the exclusion of women from participation in national leadership, its impact on women’s leadership style has not been afforded much consideration (Johnson, 2004). This essay reveals that even as culture plays a considerable role in the performance of women in national leadership, research in this subject is limited.
Gender concerns have relatively lately been regarded as women’s concerns and included in the deliberations of national leadership. This idea is sustained by Collard and Reynolds (2010), who emphasizes that gender, has been related so strongly with women that in a few cases, they are identical. The authors define the term gender as a cultural term that a socially construct and describes the qualities that are ascribed to individuals on the basis of their sex the ways in which they are thought to behave or the qualities that are believed to be based upon their cultural expectations of what it means to be male or female. Customarily, descriptors that are classified with the male gender are assertive, rational, analytical, ambitious, and confident, while the female gender is perceived as being sensitive, cooperative, intuitive, and emotional. As leadership is currently diverse, several researchers are concerned with the male and female styles of leadership. Research in relation to leadership styles often seeks out looks for the convergent qualities related to one gender and concludes whether females and males lead differently. Indecisive statements of findings have generated the debate concerning whether leadership and gender are independent or interrelated (Johannesen, 2011).
Several researchers assert that gender determines an individual’s leadership style, meaning that women and men manage and lead differently. According to Bracken (2009), a research body which sustains this postulation has been developing ever since the mid-1980s. Prior to this time, disparities in the way women and men led were undervalued probably since the shortage of women national leaders rendered them roughly invisible. With reference to the way female and male national leaders perform their tasks and their relevant styles of leadership, gender has been depicted as a differentiating variable. It is presumed that gender directly influences leadership styles as a result of the process of socialization which develops in females the values as well as characteristics that bring about leadership behaviors which are dissimilar from those customarily associated with males. Moreover, the female gender is confined to behaving in compliance to their stereotypes as emotional, compliant, dependent, prudent, and careful. In this regard, it is essential to mention that expectation is an essential aspect of the process of socialization. Women are likely to be cooperative, supportive, and caring and can justify their dissimilar approaches to national leadership from the men. Verification proposes that leaders who carry out their roles and responsibilities in contradiction of the stereotypical expectations of their respective gender are judged negatively. It is therefore concluded that, gender directly influences human conduct and therefore, has the ability to influence a person’s leadership style (Johannesen, 2011).
On the contrary, to the notion that gender may be a determinant of styles of leadership, other scholars assert that leadership is gender-impartial. This argument is sustained by several researchers who allege that, there is little or no disparity between the way women and men lead.
Studies relating to leadership conduct in non-educational backgrounds find no difference between female and male leaders. Further, women and men cannot be considered as two coherent groupings with two manifestly dissimilar ways of management and leading, since they are constrained, in any case, by their leadership roles. Norms guide the task performance in all leadership roles. Therefore, when females and males are in similar national leadership positions, they have a propensity to act similarly to accomplish their roles. Although gender roles may bear an impact on their conduct, it will be customized by the leadership roles, resulting in negligible disparities in leadership styles (Collard & Reynolds, 2010).
Several scholars posit that leadership practice is not gender-determined, but strongly situated. In addition, a study in regard to college presidents carried out by (Avolio, 2011), found out that, although the presidents were portrayed in gendered terms by the respective campus members as generative for women and authoritative for men, the leaders did not essentially lead in firmly gendered ways. Other studies in the same subject demonstrated similar findings, demonstrating faculty members’ variance with women presidents’ viewpoint that they led more collegially and in a participative fashion. The dissimilarity between the opinion of a particular leader in regard to their performance and their actual performance may be explained through stereotyping, which is declared as being central to the denunciation of gender as a determinant in regard to leadership style (Johannesen, 2011).
The debate concerning leadership and gender necessitates additional research if an authoritative conclusion is to be attained. Johnson, (2004), concurs that the association between leadership and gender is likely a subject of perception as a result of inadequate supporting evidence for disparities. However, the influence of gender on leadership appears to be irrefutable. According to Avolio (2011), women in the study discarded gender as a strong concern in their careers, but their performance in leaders was yet influenced by the consciousness of their gender. They were increasingly conscious of how they moved, dressed, and utilized body language to guarantee that the messages they expressed as leaders were not challenged by reactions to them as women. Women in national leadership require working harder to break out from the stereotypes and establish their importance. If leadership is free of gender, women can gain knowledge of the rules to play in the male dominated sphere of national leadership. On the other hand, the number of frontrunners is rare and consequently, women require coping to survive by learning a new language and a new game which Collard and Reynolds (2010), refer to as a feminine leadership style. Even as this does not of necessity imply that women lead in a different way from men, it indicates that leadership is not gender-impartial.
In spite of the controversy concerning leadership and gender, research on women leadership styles is growing. Leadership styles are perceived as a composite of reasonably stable behavioral patterns that is evident in leaders. Work on women leadership style has a tendency to conclude that women are better national leaders than men. This allegation is justified in the context of women’s relationships, as well as community building. In a study carried out by Avolio (2011), female principals construed women’s leadership more optimistically than men’s. They claimed that women lead increasingly flexibly, holistically and intuitively. Some argued that women hold better-quality leadership styles.
Feminist literature writing concerning the female gender in administration, commenced around the 1980’s, as a rejoinder to the scarcity of women representation in top-echelons, in administrative positions. Feminist writers embarked on the proposal for the existence of an all female organizational culture. Several studies were carried out to study the women’s voices as well as their approaches to national leadership activities like decision-making. This utilization of a feminine lens, by which to study national leadership behavior, has persisted to the present day. According to Johnson (2004), females as national leaders encounter a dissimilar reality and construe this reality in a different way from the traditionally governing group. The studies of these realities have resulted in an effort at re-centering knowledge in a manner that draws on the scholarship and experiences of men and women uniformly. This research body has brought about the conception of a feminine leadership style. While the feminist scholars have not asserted that the qualities they depict as an ingredient of the feminine leadership style are those displayed by women only or even by all women in national leadership positions, they have examined these qualities in the female gender in their studies (Bracken, 2009).
Other studies reveal that leaders who utilize a feminine leadership style employ an emotional lens and a balanced data lens to operate in the role of the decision maker, problem solver, as well as manager of relationships. According to Avolio (2011), all leaders who promote power sharing, participation, and information, as well as develop other’s self-worth is interactive or transformational leaders. The interactive leaders encourage enthusiasm as well as confidence of others in relation to their work by giving power to them to be decisive on their individual in risk-free settings. Women national leaders who employ the feminine leadership style desire being in the core organizationally and abhor being in a more remote top-down leadership structure. In addition, women have thrived by employing feminine strengths like supporting, teaching, encouraging, soliciting input, opening communication, as well as forming a positive, mutually respectful work atmosphere. Female leaders are also inter-personal specialist who network soundly when presented with the opportunity.
Culture, the communal symbols, beliefs, as well as, behavioral patterns is undervalued and operates nearly imperceptibly in any society. Culture is not easily exposed and can be indistinguishable to insiders. Collard and Reynolds (2010), maintain that although it is difficult to identify a cultural impediment, it is not enough reason to keep them un-researched or unrevealed. Findings in several studies reveal that organizational culture, by means of its diverse constituents, constantly excludes and marginalizes women. Research on women in national leadership has found that women encounter impediments on their journey to the top positions in leadership, and while in those situations, they may encounter disparate employment opportunities as well as role conflict and patriarchal mind-sets towards them. These factors originate from culture, whether third world or Western and construct a glass top limit for women who seek to access national leadership positions. The major impediment to women has been cultures typified by male domination because all of the definite obstacles known can be traced back to societies that support and enforce male-dominant systems. Gender bias and internal hurdles such as low aspiration, lack of self-confidence, as well as low motivation are brought about by patriarchy. This philosophy leads to an andro-centric society, which enlightens why senior national leadership roles are taken by men, instead of women (Avolio, 2011).
It is manifest from numerous parts of the world that women are leading numerous initiatives to uphold good governance. These women leaders in government promote transparency and participation by promoting partnership across social sectors, and ideological lines, engaging different stakeholders in the process of governance, and bringing a distinctive set of issues to policymaking. Regrettably, attitudes, local rules, as well as customs usually hamper women’s participation in national government. Women in national leadership require programs to lift their self-confidence, as well as make them conscious of election procedures and laws, and offer them the requisite skills to be successful candidates and leaders. In human history, there have always been women in national leadership positions. For instance, in Egypt Queens are understood to have ruled from approximately 3000 BCE and the first is Ku-baba, who governed the Mesopotamian State of Ur approximately in 2500 BCE (Bracken, 2009).
It was not until in and around the First World War that the few women joined in revolutionary governments in Russia, Ukraine, Ireland, and Hungary. The first female to be named minister in a parliamentary government that was democratically elected was Nina Bang, as a Minister of Education in Denmark, from 1924 to 1926. However, development was sluggish, and it was not until towards the end of the 20th century that women ministers stopped being strange, although a number of countries did not elect women in their national governments.
In Sri Lanka, Sirivamo Bandaranaike in 1960, became the world’s first ever woman to be elected as Prime Minister. In Argentina Sabel Perón, in 1974 became the world’s first woman President. Prior to Sabel Perón, only one woman had been elected as acting Head of Government, and there were two female acting Heads of State prior to that. In 2009, Monaco had its first woman member of the government. In 1999, Sweden became the first nation to have a higher number of female ministers than men. There were 9 men, and 11 women in Sweden, while in Finland, the government had 60% females (Johannesen, 2011).
In the present day, the membership of the United Nations has 193 members, 2 independent states are outside, a small number of self-declared, de-facto sovereign states and numerous self-ruling territories. In total, there are 27 women leaders in self-ruling territories or countries currently. In regard to the monarchies, there are three reigning Queens in three different countries, namely: The Netherlands, Denmark, as well as the United Kingdom, while the United Kingdom is represented by women Governor Generals in three countries, namely; Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, as well as Saint Lucia, who operate as their nations’ de-facto Heads of State (Avolio, 2011).
There are nine female Presidents across the world, namely in; Argentina, Costa Rica, Brazil, India, Liberia, Kosovo, Lithuania, Switzerland, and San Marino. Presently there are thirteen female Prime Ministers in the world, namely in; Australia, Germany, Bangladesh, Guinea Bissau, Jamaica, Iceland, Mali, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, and Slovakia, as well as in the self-governing territories Sint Maartin, the Aland Islands, and Bermuda.
This paper has demonstrated that women’s practice of national leadership is extremely influenced by culture. Whereas culture is a characteristic of national identity that requires being developed and preserved, its unconstructive influences ought to be mitigated and challenged. As specified in this paper, diverse levels of the culture intermingle, bringing about the pressures that are experienced by women leaders. As a result, in order to transform organizational culture, it is critical that the indigenous ways of life transform. For instance, the public proclamation of vacant national leadership positions would not be uncommon, and considered strange, if the same process were utilized for top-level positions in the National Assemblies as well as in the Government. This course of change demands the close coordination of State organizations, the National Assemblies and Women’s associations. This study of women in national leadership paves the way for additional research of this type in order to empower, as well as encourage women, to vie for national leadership positions. Women’s poor representation in national leadership and gender parity in general, can be enhanced if the deeply-embedded postulations concerning gender which fortify the culture are uncovered and addressed.
Avolio, P. (2011). Enhancing Organizational Effectiveness by Transformational Leadership.
Bracken, H. (2009). Women in Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Collard, D., & Reynolds, T. (2010). Leadership, Gender & Culture: Female & Male Perspectives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Johannesen, S. (2011). Leadership Styles of Men & Women. Social Issues Journal, 51(4), 81-97.
Johnson, C. (2004). Legitimate Authority & Gender, American Sociological Review, 43(2), 122- 135.
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