“We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.” ~Margaret Atwood
The challenge surrounding women and leadership is characterised by a never-ending debate on the woman’s ability to lead like her male counterparts. The Global Gender Gap Report (2015) indicated that women’s presence in America’s top management positions remains at 9 percent, a reflection of the reality of women leadership in both developed and possibly worse situation in developing nations.
The leadership gender gap hinders women from decision-making and inclusion in leadership. Policy amendments embracing affirmative action has attempted to achieve gender balance in top management, but there is still room for tremendous improvement. Even with better academic qualifications, vast work experience and proven astute leadership skills, women still face challenges when seeking to rise to top leadership positions.
What is the cause of this unfavourable position for women seeking to influence organisations from the top decision making positions? Is there any chance to blame productive and reproductive roles assigned to women by nature? In most organizations women are faced with a couple of barriers to leadership:
- Glass Ceiling. This is a common gender stereotype that women are a weaker sex and cannot make for good leaders. It has propagated gender biases and discrimination of women based on social constructs and prejudice. UN Women has indicated that globally, there are 37 States in which women account for less than 10 per cent of parliamentarians in single or lower houses, as of August 2015, including 6 chambers with no women at all.
- Sticky floors. Women compared to men have been perceived as being slow or having the inability to climb the job ladder. This lack of self-drive based on their place in society works against them and hence the acceptance to be in the lower levels of management.
- Glass escalator. Women have been left to use the staircase while men ride on escalators to occupy certain top positions previously associated with women. We see a paradigm shift with men now occupying positions as salonists, manicurists, teachers and nurses creating competition between the genders. This is in addition to taking up jobs in the hospitality industry such as chefs or waiters. Men in female-dominated careers rise higher and faster than women in male-dominated careers.
- Velvet ghetto. Women are clustered into specific career based on the assumption that they perform better in certain careers compared to others. For instance, women being alluded to be good in care giving and secretarial work while men are better in mechanical areas such as engineering and having vast financial knowledge. Even when an opportunity presents itself, a woman will not be considered because of this misconception.
- Queen Bee. Junior female employees seeking career progression while working under female bosses might find this path blocked by their boss. Ever heard the common saying that women are their own worst enemy? It has been proven that when women rise to the top, they fail to empower and grow fellow women to reach the same level. This presents a gender gap on succession planning with most positions being filled by men when they fall vacant. A spot that would ordinarily be occupied by a woman is snatched away hence propagating the glass ceiling.
- Glass cliff. This is the most common scenario presenting itself in current times. Women vying for political leadership or top management positions are more likely to garner support when chances of succeeding in that position are slim or where failure is imminent. It is also common practice to see women being appointed to top positions in times of crises.
Navigating through these forms of exclusion of the female gender requires a multi-faceted approach and concerted efforts by everyone. It calls for the realization that leadership is for both men and women. Genesis 1:27 depicts that God created mankind in his own image, both male and female. In his eyes, all humanity is of value. Women are capable of taking up leadership roles. We need to arise and take up the challenge and believe we can and just like Paul say “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
About The Author
Grace is a leader who believes in amplifying people’s abilities in developing leadership competencies. She believes that leadership is a particular way of approaching life, one that is an irrepressible outcome of being committed to a lifelong process of fulfilling human potential; not only for oneself but also for others. She is versatile, promotes excellence, embraces diversity and has a high level of emotional and cultural intelligence. As a trainer in leadership, Grace is devoted to mentoring the youth, and empowering women with leadership proficiencies as well as instilling a high sense of self efficacy in them. Her life purpose is to bring out the best in others.