Of course men make better leaders???

Woman climbing over fenceDiscussing career development, advancement and progression I recently heard the sadly familiar opinion “It’s not surprising there are fewer women at the top, women just don’t make such successful leaders.”. My heart sank. How long does it take for facts to overtake stereotypical but outdated bias? We see men in positions of leadership so we assume men make better leaders – despite evidence to the contrary.

A woman may have a different leadership style to a man though it is at least as effective and this isn’t a recent flash-in-the-pan discovery.

Harvard Business Review report in 2012 concluded that at every level [of seniority], more women were rated by their peers, their bosses, their direct reports, and their other associates as better overall leaders than their male counterparts.  So, people who actually work for and with female leaders judge them to be highly effective. In contrast, people who don’t work for a female leader often anticipate or expect female leaders to be less effective – and because female leaders are relatively rare, the incorrect negative stereotype persists.

There are many reasons for this which have been documented by research studies. In general men are associated with concepts of competence and leadership while the perceived strengths of women are clearly aligned with being nice or nurturing. What makes this even worse is that when women are successful it is assumed that they only achieved this at the expense of being nice or nurturing – hence the stereotype of the bitchy female leader – the only way a woman could get to the top is by being nasty. What a price to pay! We are so ready to believe something that agrees with an existing stereotype or expectation that we rarely look for evidence to the contrary…

There’s no doubt that during career progression a woman has to work harder and often make more compromises than most men as she frequently juggles caring responsibilities with work roles. While looking up and contemplating whether we have what it takes to advance to the next level, frequently we also find ourselves wondering whether we want to be perceived as “that sort of woman”. That loss in likeability is a price we often have to pay for being successful. Hopefully, as more women do become leaders, do demonstrate their competence, we will also see that they are still the same people and are just as likeable (or not) as they were before they became leaders…

What I do expect, is that they will demonstrate beyond doubt that they are definitely competent and make every bit as good a leader as a male colleague.

 

What do you think?

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