Women and Leadership: Challenges
What challenges do women leaders face to operate in a male-dominated society?
The business milieu of the 21st century involves a higher degree of cultural and emotional quotients. Women, in general, rank high in such factors, as verified in the news by the increasing role of women in the corporate world. Evans (2010) argues that “women [are] better equipped than ever before to respond to contemporary corporate requirements…in terms of effective leadership” (p. 357) to support the above statement. Hess and Bandhyopadhyay (2010) who conducted research on 507 male and female graduating students from the U.S. and Switzerland conclude and agree that women are concerned about people-related matters, diversity and possess global skills more than men. These are important attributes to compete in the evolving business climate. This is why it is important for women to take up leadership roles in organizations, including in the male-dominated ones, especially when their goals include survival and growth. However, this begs the question: what challenges do women leaders face to operate in a male-dominated organization? This literature review aims to answer this research question and how it has been effectively dealt with by successful women leaders. Women in leadership roles in male-dominated organizations face the fundamental challenge of Gender/Sexual Discrimination. This is conveyed through misinterpretation of women’s effective communication style leading to the glass ceiling effect. Essentially, these challenges arise from office politics and people’s conventional perspectives on the roles of women.
Trigger Factor: Misinterpretation of women’s communication style
A stereotypical perception of women is that they are not as assertive as men. Chrisler and McCreary (2010), researchers and authors of the book, Handbook of Gender Research in Psychology, claim that when a male manager displays assertive communication style, they “[are] perceived as behaving appropriately and displaying leadership” (p. 450), and a female leader who performs in exactly the same manner is “vulnerable to being regarded as unacceptably pushy” (p. 450). Similarly, Powell (2010) who synthesized existing empirical research agrees with Chrisler and McCreary (2010). According to his critique, “confident and assertive women tend to be less influential than confident, assertive men” (p. 106). This particularly important leadership trait that marks the success or failure of corporations is to a great extent viewed negatively. Matlin’s (2008) conviction based on her literature review, consequently, sheds light on this evaluation. According to Matlin (2008), men are more persuaded when women use tentative language such as “I’m not sure” and women employees, on the other hand, are more convinced when women leaders use assertive communication and relatively skeptical if otherwise. This means that, if a woman exhibits strong masculinity, she would not persuade men.