Are Professional Women the Victims of our Society?

Are Professional Women the Victims of our Society

Women of society are bringing glory to the nation. Still, it is striking to see how professional women have been marginalized in some vocations, ignoring the benefits of gender diversity. Do social roles determine who we are and what we can achieve in life? Could it be that external factors limit our ability to live our lives the way we want to? We are looking to answer these questions and shed light on some of the hurdles professional women may come across.

Gender Equality and Professionalism

‘For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts’– cited from a former president’s second inaugural speech. The world is still contemplating these words quite a few years later.

This question of equal pay for all has been a debatable issue for some… And an eye-opener for many in the past few years. Many countries have been democratized, and they granted equal right to vote to everyone, irrespective of their gender. Still, somehow, the same rights are not given to everyone at the workplace. And nothing can be more disappointing for the countries than failing to recognise the effort of all members of the society equally.

In a report by CNN, US soccer claimed that it would not pay women soccer players equally because being a male player requires more ‘skill and responsibility’. Although American women have had far more success in football than their counterparts, the team has been subjected to this ‘sexist stereotype’. Unsurprisingly, professional women could relate to this, no matter what job they have got.

This example is just one situation where professional women have been subjected to gender discrimination. Also, people may have questioned them about their ability to perform, instead of benefiting from promoting gender diversity. However, this is not the first time that this has happened. Reportedly, far more troubling cases of discrimination, violence against women has happened around the world during the past few years. In contrast, the world remains quiet about these atrocities.

The hurdles of professional women

When we talk about professional women, we usually don’t look at what goes into achieving that status. Competition for these women is not limited to the test exams and interviews. It goes far beyond those lines: fighting social stigma, societal boundaries, family pressure, discrimination, and the stress of being a woman.

Is This a Man’s World?

Success is a complex word, apparently biased towards the male gender in most cases. We could all name men being famous and popular the world over. But can you, as easily, think of professional women being praised for their achievements on such a large scale? For one, have you heard of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf? Although she left a mixed legacy behind, she has undeniably helped to maintain peace in Liberia. She also promoted the improvement of livelihoods and safeguarding of women of her country. A victim of domestic violence, an international bank executive, and a Nobel prize winner.

In some cultures, people consider a woman’s prestige only when she keeps quiet and nods at every decision that the man makes. When she raises her voice against injustice and tries to put up against the dominating male the perception changes. When she voices her powerful opinion, she becomes an arrogant, selfish, and vindictive woman.

Nevertheless, although this has been a challenge for women, you will find them protecting their voice and rising to the trials that it brings. Undoubtedly, this is what makes them gain respect, love, and admiration at a much broader level. Professional women in such cultures may make efforts to overcome patriarchy, societal boundaries and the limitations placed on their talents. They will step up as powerful, strong women who are ready to take on the world. Women has proved this strength on many occasions.

Professional Women and Responsibility

Professional women have always been an inspiration to grow, thrive and achieve. Think of India’s Lakshmibai, Pakistan’s Malala, America’s Michelle Obama or Finland’s Sanna Marin.

The extra load that the boss wants to be done by the end of the night… The child whose homework has to be submitted the next morning… And a husband who is tired after a day’s work… These challenges rarely make a woman stumble. And before you know, she’s done with her work because that’s how they are made to function.

Photo by Philip Toledano

Indra Nooyi – Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images

Indra Nooyi, an Indian American Business executive and former CEO of PepsiCo, has continuously ranked amongst the top 100 most powerful women. Nevertheless, in an interview, she told of an incident. It occurred with her mother after she had been declared the President of the Board of Directors. Her mother said that the moment she enters the house, she is a wife, a mother, and a daughter-in-law and that she should leave the crown in the garage.

This incident brings out one of the biggest challenges that professional women face: no matter what women’s role ultimately comes down to managing the household.

What Does it Take to be a Professional Woman?

A woman’s sacrifice often goes unnoticed by society. In fact, a woman’s whole life may revolve around sacrifices. Furthermore, after a certain point, the difference between happiness, choice and sacrifice becomes a blurred line, until only sacrifice remains.

Leaving the home that she grew up in to create a new nest with someone else… Giving up on dreams just because the family disapproved… Letting go of a job opportunity because it demanded time and she had to be home… Resigning her job because she has a child at home to look after. Sacrifices that no one acknowledges and which may go overlooked.

Living the Life of Professional Women

We have talked about successful, professional women and their role in society. Many others have achieved similar heights or are capable of achieving something outstanding with some support and means.

Trying to work as an independent person, supporting the family or just for pursuing a passion has never been easy. The struggle is real for every woman who is trying to create an identity in the world… For women who are set to bring about a change in this society and make it a better place for all women. For example, women may not get a job just because it is presumed that they would not be able to invest themselves entirely in their work. This discriminating, stereotypical belief may pose challenges to most professional women, irrespective of their field of expertise. 

Despite these shortcomings, you will find professional women who work 18 hours a day, professional women who did not marry to pursue their career. The fight against biases and discrimination is endless; although we have come a long way in this race of equal rights, we still have a long way to go.

The responsibility 

At the same time, you must remember: we all are the makers of our own faith. Therefore, we must take an active role in deciding how our life unfolds. It’s our choice what we allow and what we decline to be part of our journey. We must recognise that the way we choose to live our lives affects the lives of the generations after us. So, finding our inner strength and voice is not only a potential but a far-reaching RESPONSIBILITY.

Empowered Women

Women are one of the main pillars of society and its existence. It is time that you wake up to your dreams, overcome your fear and defeat the demons that are trying to hold you back from achieving the heights of success.

The moment you give up your fears, the moment you embrace your womanhood in all its glory, you give way to a life that you have always dreamt of. Remember, the moment you decide to step up to what you believe in, you will find help from all walks of life. There is always help and support out there. It may just help you find an easier way out of these situations with the right tools and mechanisms.

The moment you decide to help yourself, you will find strength and power to grow and motivation to live the life you have always wanted. You are not alone in this battle; there are millions of others on this planet who are going through the same transformation. Help, support, and justice are just a few courageous steps away.

Speak, talk, let others know of how strong you are, and maybe your story can become someone else’s inspiration. If we all unite in this battle of rights, we can make this world a better place for the next generations. Remember, it is our responsibility to live a life that is based on our own decisions and preferences as empowered, strong, professional women, and not to fall the victim of society.

Leadership styles – Do women lead better than men?

Leadership styles – Do women lead better than men?

Recently we have all been hearing and reading different speculations, theories and claims about differences between the leadership styles of men and women. One thing that we have gathered so far from all these theories is the fact that men and women lead differently. Consequently, this is the base from which we can look at the distinctions between the leadership styles of the two genders. Once we have a better understanding of the variations, only then will we be able to form a conclusion on who leads better, men or women?

Before we start the comparison, let me share the findings of a couple of studies. One of them argues that ‘organizations that most aggressively promote women to executive positions have 1/4 to 1/3 higher profits than their industry average’. (Pepperdine University 2007, Catalyst 2009)

Another study concludes that ‘working groups with more women in them demonstrate higher collective intelligence, problem-solving capability. Because women listen better and encourage more participation’.(Harvard Business Review, June 2011)

Notably, gender stereotyping is normally avoided, and we try not to generalize people into groups according to their genders. Still, in practical terms, gender differences stand true, and the distinctions between the leadership styles also originate here. Some leadership styles may be associated more with men.

Command and Control Leadership Style

According to the social norms established in the world, men usually belong to the ‘dominant group’. Throughout history, the male population dominated all kinds of businesses. For this reason, we see them in positions of authority everywhere; they are the managers, bosses, CEOs, chancellors, directors, etc. This has been going on for a very long time. As a result, it has given a false perception that women are the non-dominant group and are less fit for leadership.

This leadership style assumes that leaders practice very tight control of the ship. Consequently, they get used to issuing instructions and expect workers to follow those without hesitation. As a result of this leadership style, depending on the environment, the outcomes may not be very fruitful. The working environment remains tense with no or little room for creativity, compassion or even mistakes. As a result, this makes employees restless, resentful and generally unhappy. We are all aware of the fact that unhappy or unsatisfied workers never give the best results.

The disadvantages of this leadership style are:

  • it leaves little room for empathy, and workers are less engaged in a professional, but in-depth, communication with the ‘boss’,
  • the leader rarely gives employees a chance to explain their points at lengths and from their point of view,
  • creative and effective employee engagement may also decrease,
  • leading like this tends to reduce the effectiveness of the leader, as they consider themselves not having to answer to anyone.

The factors described here originate from a couple of leadership styles. Usually, leaders practising these styles lack interaction with some levels of the organisation.

Women, in our social standard, assumed to belong to the non-dominant group of society. They are often said to be too sensitive, compassionate and involved to be good leaders. But guess what: these are the traits of good leaders. So, let’s talk about what does it mean to be a transformational leader!

Transformational or Interactive Leadership Style

This type of leadership style is perhaps a better fit for female leaders, and it’s characterized by the following:

  1. Generally, women, due to their social roles, tend to be more patient, imaginative, creative and brim-full of ideas.
  2. Their ability to get involved with the situation, circumstances and people is what helps this style to flourish. They are not used to the high-chair of authority. This translates to having the ability to bring themselves down to the level of each employee and think from their perspective. It gives them a unique insight. Therefore, they can interact well with everyone, and come up with ideas and solutions that everyone is agreeable to.
  3. Another couple of traits are patience and perseverance. We often believe that women do not give up easily. They tend to dig down to the root of the problem and keep looking for solutions until they succeed.
  4. Another factor here is compassion and sensitivity. These characteristics allow them to forgive mistakes and pave the way for sensitive communication. In turn, this treatment of workers does wonders for employee morale, and satisfied and happy people are more efficient.
  5. Other reasons that can make females successful leaders are: 
    • their nurturing nature;
    • competence to maintain a work-life balance;
    • their empathy and skill to listen keenly;
    • challenge motivation;
    • creative analysis of ideas.

Women and men leadership styles in practice

To back up the theories, let me share some evidence. The data underlines the effectiveness of leadership styles and promote that female leaders are also the way forward to success.

In 2011, a survey took place involving 7280 leaders. The data was collected by bosses, peers, and directly from the leaders in the form of self-evaluation reports. In order to gauge effectiveness, the scientists selected 16 competencies from 30 years of research work. These competencies paint a picture of a leader’s highest effectiveness based on several business models. The results indicate that the majority of leaders employed in different sectors are still men. Still, in terms of leadership effectiveness, women take the lead (overall leadership effectiveness for males: 51.3% and for females: 55.1%). This study included leaders from all sectors and walks of life including commercial, domestic, government, private and international. Zenger Folkman Inc. conducted the survey. Its outcome was that Folkman, a psychometrician, has designed a tool to measure leadership effectiveness. In short, he described leadership effectiveness as follows:

‘A great leader can connect with people. And we find that as leaders progress in an organization, their ability to empathize and understand people is absolutely critical for a senior executive…If a leader doesn’t do that, they don’t get the kind of engagement and commitment from employees.’

Overall Leadership Effectiveness by Gender by Position (Percentile Scores)

 

Male

Female

Top Management, Executive, Senior Team Members

57.7

67.7

Reports to Top Management, Supervises Middle Managers

48.9

56.2

Middle Manager

49.9

52.7

Supervisor, Front Line Manager, Foreman

52.5

52.6

Individual Contributor

52.7

53.9

Other

50.7

52.0

Total

51.3

55.1

Source: Zenger Folkman Inc., 2011

How far have we come?

Let’s see if we have learnt from and implemented these findings over the past decade. Earlier this month, Catalyst has published their results in the area. They revealed that last year the proportion of women in senior management roles globally grew to 29%, the highest ever recorded. That means there is a movement towards gender diversity, although the proportion of women in senior leadership differs by role. Women are over-represented in administration-related positions, while men are likely to be more concentrated in operations-related roles.

There is also a variation by region: Africa has the highest score at 38% in the proportion of women in senior leadership positions, followed by Eastern Europe (35%) and North America (29%). Looking at the USA, we can see startling figures. There is a record-high number of Fortune 500 Women CEOs in 2020. Nevertheless, there are still nearly 13 Companies run by a man for every company run by a woman.

Based on a Mercer analysis looking at over a thousand organizations, the following was found concerning women in leadership roles:

  • Executives: 23%,
  • Senior Managers: 29%
  • Managers: 37%.

Clearly, there has been some progress made in the right direction in the past years. However, there is still a wide gap in the representation of genders in higher positions.

The transformational and interactive leadership traits that we discussed earlier fall in line with Folkman’s words. We have also seen the results of interactive, empathetic and compassionate leadership. It wins leaders the commitment and happiness of employees. And a leader is successful when they have the faith and commitment of their employees. 

So, why are women so underrepresented in leadership roles? Perhaps it is due to the biased society standards. Women still face several issues at the workplace. They also spend a lot more time and mental ability to find solutions to problems that come their way. This could lead to anxiety, tension and other mental health issues.

In this changing world, you need not fear problems and looking for solutions. Buckle up women, it won’t be a smooth ride! Still, many are standing behind you to find ways to manage the challenges so that you can take the opportunity to step up to lead.