Gender and Leadership

Is leadership Gender Specific?

Since the ancient times, the society has viewed women as followers and not as leaders. However, women have always proved it wrong. Even in history women have set examples by proving themselves great leaders whenever the need occurred. Leadership traits are not gender specific and even women can prove themselves great leaders. In the 21st century, the condition of the women has grown several times better. Several of them are at the helms of major organizations. Traditionally, the women played nurturing roles in the society and took care of the kids.

Command, control and leadership have traditionally remained male bastions. It appears like traditions were set keeping in mind the males and to establish male control on the human society. However, these things have changed in the 21st century as women have come forward to play more active roles in the society. Now, more of them are in jobs and even in high positions. Research has also established that self-reliance is not just a quality of men but the women too can be assertive, and risk takers. Still, women are far from their deserved status in the society. The most obvious reason behind this is the mindset which has always attributed to the women the role of mothers and homemakers.

The 21st century has seen several important changes happening. One of them is the increased participation of the women in the labor force. Still, when there is a talk of leadership, female leadership does not ignite much fire. Their leadership abilities have been doubted which is because they are not seen as aggressive or commanding. However, it is equally true that the leadership traits can be found in both men and women. Specific traits which separate the leaders from the non leaders are equally likely to be found in women as the men. There are many examples in the modern world including the Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi and Hillary Clinton. Still, a large number of women are not getting an equal opportunity of growth and development which is mainly because of the gender bias prevailing in the society.

Gender bias is a well known term. Despite there being several laws trying to bring the women at an equal status as the men, equality remains illusive. Most of them in the business world have faced the glass ceiling in their lives. The think manager think man mentality is found in most organizations. These are the things that have generally kept the women from proving themselves and getting in leadership roles. These gender based barriers keep several women from getting into executive roles. Still, with increased opportunities of education and jobs the picture has slightly changed in this century. More women have come forward and the discussion on female leadership caught momentum. The female leadership style has attracted both attention and discussion. If women can prove credible leaders and if there is something specifically distinct about the female leadership is being debated.
There are some basic differences between the male and female leadership styles. Research has showed that these differences are mainly based on social circumstances. The social role theory holds that the difference is because of the congruence of roles that the males and females are expected to play in the society. This theory also provides the reasons behind similarities and differences between the two leadership styles. It shows that both genders in their leadership styles exhibit traits that are consistent with their genders. However, our society views the leadership traits as more in line with the male gender. Research has shown that while males are generally more autocratic and task oriented in their approach, the females tend to be more democratic and nurturing.
The modern world is full of examples of efficient women leaders. Margaret Thatcher can be cited as an excellent example of female leadership. The first British Prime Minister played an important role in the fall of communism and pushed her conservative policies. Another example is Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel who played an important role in strengthening the nation’s economy. Both of them are great examples and have showed through their leadership that women too can be effective leaders and bring long lasting changes. So, these leaders have proved that power and control are not exclusively male bastions. On the basis of these examples, one can see that leadership cannot be limited to a particular gender. However, if most women remain unable to prove themselves in their lives then it is because of the glass ceiling and the gender bias.

Women are forced to struggle before they can reach important positions. Until the society is able to cast away its traditional mind set the women will remain limited in their role and ability. Given the chance, they too can prove themselves. The business organizations particularly need to provide both genders with equal opportunities. Women can be both creative and compassionate. Apart from it they can be courageous and full of risk taking attitude. It would be absolutely wrong to believe that leadership traits are gender specific. Leaders like Indra Nooyi that  are leading large global organizations like Pepsi are the best example of leadership abilities of women in the modern era. Government and society too need to work actively to change the norms that have kept women away from realizing their potential.

Abhijeet Pratap

Abhijeet has been blogging on educational topics and business research since 2016. He graduated with a Hons. in English literature from BRABU and an MBA from the Asia-Pacific Institute of Management, New Delhi. He likes to blog and share his knowledge and research in business management, marketing, literature and other areas with his readers.