Does gender really play a role in leadership?
Tuesday, January 05, 2016
We all know there are inherent differences between the male and female genders. As it turns out, these differences apply to leadership styles in the workplace as well.
In 2008, the Pew Research Center surveyed 2,250 individuals for their report, "A Paradox in Public Attitudes: Men or Women: Who's a Better Leader." While the majority of those surveyed (69 percent) said men and women make equally good leaders, differences showed up in character attributes.
"When it comes to honesty, intelligence and a handful of other character traits they value highly in leaders, the public rates women superior to men," the survey noted.
This survey also stated that "the paradox embedded in these survey findings is part of a wider paradox in modern society on the subject of gender and leadership. In an era when women have made sweeping strides in educational attainment and workforce participation, relatively few have made the journey all the way to the highest levels of political or corporate leadership."
The discussions of this article will highlight the various character areas such as honesty and intelligence, as well as some of the obstacles each gender encounters in being a leader.
Looking at the chart to the right, you'll notice women rate higher on intelligence, compassion, outgoing behavior, creativity and honesty — the last of which "is the most important to leadership of any of the traits measured in the survey," according to respondents.
Men and women tie on hard work and ambition, while men edge out women in decisiveness (44 to 33), their lone victory in character traits.
This survey found that, "Women have big leads over men on the last three traits on the public's rankings of the eight items measured: being compassionate (80 percent say women; 5 percent say men); being outgoing (47 percent say women; 28 percent say men) and being creative (62 percent say women; 11 percent say men)."
Based upon the results from this survey, women overwhelmingly make better leaders. However, in both the corporate and political arena, women are not well represented.
"Women are just 2 percent of the CEOs of the nation's Fortune 500 companies," the report notes. "In the political realm, they make up just 17 percent of all members of the U.S. House of Representatives; 16 percent of all
"27 percent of the public cites this as a major reason there aren't more women leaders in politics," the research notes. "Some 26 percent say that a big reason is that women don't have the experience required for higher office. The least common explanations — chosen as a major reason by just 16 percent and 14 percent of respondents, respectively — are that women don't make as good leaders as men and that women aren't tough enough for politics."
In my own experience as a supervisor, I had to balance my work and life in and out of the office. I found I was the one who had to make the sacrifices necessary in making sure that the house ran well, etc, while my husband was afforded more avenues to pursue higher leadership roles.
I did not mind these trade-offs. In my case, they were necessary to make sure I had a smooth-running family life, which in turn made for a better work life.
It's clear the overall perception relevant to the gender differences in leadership will always be there. Women have more obstacles to overcome, such as bearing children, childcare and running the home, among others. But it is the responsibility of both genders to strive to be the best leaders they can be, regardless of their circumstances.
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