HBR: The Business Case for Women Leaders

Two articles in this week’s Harvard Business Review caught my attention: What the U.S. Can Learn From Europe About Gender Equality in the Workplace, and Can She Lead?

The articles raise the sensitive issue of

  1. whether women make good bosses,
  2. want to be bosses and (slightly controversially),
  3. will men support women bosses or do their best to defeat them.

One argument is that many guys don’t feel comfortable playing second fiddle to a women boss. Yes, I know there are exceptions but… So, while men tend to become CEOs etc due to networks/old boy’s clubs etc, most women, regardless of their ability may not get this opportunity.

Percentage of Women in High Level Positions

The Center for Work-Life Policy announced that while 47% of college-educated entry-level corporate professionals are female, women comprise a mere:

  • 21% of senior executives,
  • 17% of Congress and
  • 15% of board directors

Do Women Make Good Business Leaders?

The Harvard Business Review articles raise three issues:

  1. Masculine vs. Feminine women: Ambition in women is often misinterpreted as aggression. Laura Lopez writes about how toughness from a woman can be taken differently than toughness from a man. Similarly, women who allow their “feelings” to get in the way are perceived as too weak to lead and run others. This paradox can leave women unsure about how to best behave and people doubting their intentions as leaders.
  2. Belonging vs. Competing: Dr. Roy Baumeister showed that humans have a desire and need to belong, yet women and men differ on how they handle this. He says that women tend to prefer close and intimate relationships, while men tend to go for shallower connections in a larger group of people or a cause. This can lead to men thriving in competitive environments involving networking and competing with their peers, and can result in women avoiding jobs that will place them in direct competition for advancement with their peers to preserve close friendships.
  3. Family Life vs. Work Life: In “Opting Out: Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home” Pamela Stone highlights the institutional obstacles and cultural pressures that lead many women to be pushed out of work. This dilemma draws many women away from high-profile careers to stay with the kids at home.

The article concludes by saying that, “Female leaders can rise to the top as they embrace their own strengths as women and maintain a leadership style that is embedded in their individuality. This is what will draw others near, inspire, and motivate. It will also require society to respect women for the strengths they posses?”

Is this true?

Do you see this happening in the workplace? Do you support your female boss as much as your male boss? What are the blind spots and politically correct behavior that stops this from happening?

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