Women are gradually making their leadership presence felt in entrepreneurship, administration, education, engineering, health, etc. at regional, national, and global levels. Women are now resolved to break the traditional glass ceiling that barred them from entering leadership positions even if they possessed requisite skills and talent to occupy them.
Women are constantly evolving and reaching new milestones across a wide spectrum of human activities in modern times. The world has witnessed the advent of women leaders such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, Indra Nooyi, Oprah Winfrey, Theresa May, Christine Lagarde, to name a few.
Every organization needs a leader, irrespective of its size and functions. A leaderless organization is a "muddle of men and machine"; a country without leadership is anarchy; a society without leadership is a violent and dangerous place to live. Then, what is the meaning of leadership? What constitutes leadership?
A leader is a person who influences and encourages a group of people to work towards the realization of goals. The hallmark of leadership is the capacity to influence others towards accomplishing goals and towards betterment. As Chester Barnard sums it up, “Leadership is the ability of a superior to influence the behavior of a subordinates or group and persuades them to follow a particular course of action.”
Leadership is not gender-specific. It is a set of leadership qualities inherent or cultivated in person or persons who develop themselves into great leaders with mass following. Leaders can be either men or women.
Although leadership skills are acquired and shown by both men and women, there exists certain differences in the basic traits and qualities possessed by men and women leaders. Men and women mostly show distinctly different styles of leadership.
In this section, we have highlighted some of the common characteristic features of women leaders −
Women leaders are more transformational than men leaders. They function as a role model for their subordinates. They inspire their team and spend a lot of time coaching their team. They care a lot about their personal development. Women leaders emphasize teamwork and authentic communication as a key to success. For most women leaders, leadership is not meant only for accomplishing organizational goals but for transforming their followers into better people.
Women leaders are invariably focused on completion of tasks assigned within deadlines. From an operational point, completing day-to-day tasks are necessary to ensure smooth functioning of the company.
Women leaders generally prefer leading and creating flat organizational structures that enables all to work in a collegial atmosphere interpedently. Flat organizational structure overlooks the experience and knowledge of seasoned employees and the manager. Women leaders usually are critical of hierarchical structure of organization.
To work in collaboration with others is a typical feminine characteristic. Women leaders always promote cooperation and collaboration amongst the team members. In this case, all the members of the team need to be clear of their roles and responsibilities, otherwise, it results in redundant work.
Women leaders tend to be participatory and possess a democratic style of leading people. They seem to abhor ‘command and control style’ practiced by male leaders. Women often times indirectly communicate their expectations of a given task and allow more space in accomplishing a goal. It sometimes helps the team members use their skills and expertise to complete the task, however, at other times it can be a drawback if the assigned task requires a leader to have direct communication with the members.
Unlike their male counterparts, women leaders often appear to be modest or silent about their own accomplishments. They are seldom good at branding themselves. However, it is necessary that women leaders learn how to brand themselves by sharing their achievements and skills with others. Unless people know or notice what they are capable of, they cannot recognize the leadership qualities of a women leader.
Any institution, whether it is society or organization, in the present century cannot function effectively without women’s equal participation in leadership activities. Women create a perspective that brings to competition and collaboration to organizations and teams.
In today’s world, organizations that are led by inclusive leadership teams make effective decisions that deliver better result. In the twenty-first century, the essential qualities required to lead include the ability to collaborate, connect, empathize and communicate. All these qualities are feminine in nature and can help build a more sustainable future.
Many statistics show that companies led by women have better financial results. Leadership by women is vital to increase the pace of societal transformation at home and in the workplace. Women leaders are likely to provide an integrated view of work and family, resulting in an engaged and promising personal and professional future.
Gender parity in leadership is important because true progress cannot happen without a diversity of perspective in leadership roles.
Representation of women in different sectors refer to the percentage of women employees working in various sectors. In the past, women were grossly underrepresented in politics, businesses, education, manufacturing, science and technology, etc. However, this situation is changing steadily.
In the US, women are 50.8 percent of the total population. They earn almost 60 percent of undergraduate degrees and 60 percent of all master’s degrees. They do fairly well in law, medical degrees, business administration and management. Women account for 47 percent of the US labor force and 49 percent of the college-educated workforce.
Women in the US account for 52 percent of the professional-level and middle-management jobs. However, they lag substantially behind men when it comes to their representation in leadership positions. While 45 percent of the overall S&P (Standard and Poor’s) and 37 percent of first or middle level officials and managers in those companies, they are only 25 percent of executive and senior-level official manager.
In the legal field, they are 45 percent of associates but only 20 percent of partners and 17 percent of equity partners. In the medicine sector, women comprise 35.5 percent of all physicians and 26 percent of permanent medical school deans. In case of academia, women are only 30 percent of full professors and 26 percent of college presidents. In politics, women represent only 6.2 percent of the total members of Congress, whereas in the UK 19.4 percent of Members of Parliament are women. They are only 12 percent of governors and only 17 percent of the mayors of the 100 largest American cities. In the UK, 30.8 percent of local councilors are women.
The above-mentioned facts and figures, though indicate a rise in women representation in different sectors, it shows that women representation in decision-making positions is far from being satisfactory. Much remains to be done to increase the number of women at strategic and decision-making positions.