The number of women in leadership positions is increasing today, more than ever. This slow but steady increase in numbers indicates that women leaders are trustworthy, accountable, and powerful. Yet, in terms of gender diversity, there is plenty of space for change in boardrooms around the world. While all leadership positions have a number of challenges, it seems that some challenges are reserved only for women, especially women in leadership positions.
The challenges are everywhere along the way. It's on day one when you're coming in with your MBA, or when you are a boss. The struggles that you have as a woman are there, and every day they're there. And there are distinct obstacles when you rise, and it goes on and on. There are some bumps for men along the way, but a woman has to go through a maze. So she has to be wiser, and she has to find out how to solve these obstacles.
Traditional gender roles have advanced, but the disparity still exists. Women are expected to do more than men to prove their capabilities. Another thing that makes women vulnerable is their inability to promote themselves for what they want– in most case it is a decision they take by choice. However, women leaders have now utilized this ‘incapability to promote themselves’ in a weapon to showcase their professional capabilities’; they talk in the language that help in uplifting the work environment from being based on ‘pacifying’ people to the one where everyone tries to ‘impress’ through efficient work.
“People think of leaders as being more agentic than collective. So they think they're going to have to take over and be strong”
People think of leaders as being more agentic than collective. So they think they're going to have to take over and be strong. In our traditional society, the picture is commonly shared and is much more similar to men than to women. That puts a ‘disadvantage’ on women as people unnecessarily doubt their capability to be authoritative because they are perceived to be naturally sweet.
The perception is that a person has to be tough to take on that kind of leadership position. Women leaders have shown the way that colleagues do value decent attitude, and assertiveness coupled with decent attitude works wonders. I have, personally, experienced that colleagues expect a boss who is concerned about them and guides them with empathy while they struggle; women leaders have excelled in this trait, and I have seen the fabulous impact it has on the overall commitment of the people working with you.
Then, there are field-related expectations in which women can do better or not do better; such stereotyping is prevalent all around the world. Take for example, men were perceived to do a great job running a professional real estate business. However, things are changing, and now it is all about anyone being result-oriented. The sector is welcoming now, and nothing can deter any woman from entering the sector. Similar is the case with many other fields, but now we have numerous examples where women are leading the pack armed additionally with the soft skills that they excel in.
Women have the abilities to do what is considered outstanding. The more women do it, the more popular it will become, eventually change public opinion. But it's not going to take one or two women just to step up. They only become 'exceptions to the law' and are referred to as proof that there is no gender problem in certain instances. This is a long-term issue with a long-term solution, and in bringing change, we all need to play our part.