In Spite of Barriers, Women Make the Best Leaders

Studies show the ideal leader today is ethical, honest, trustworthy, and fair regarding employee expectations. These traits earn the respect of followers and are closely aligned with women leaders.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women comprise 47% of the U.S. labor force, yet lag substantially behind men when it comes to representing leadership positions. The good news is even though the gender wage gap has declined in most professions, the number of women climbing the ladder to management ranks has increased. But in spite of these achievements, women still face leadership challenges in the workplace.


Leadership Barriers Women Face

The glass ceiling metaphor and other limited opportunity metaphors like glass door and glass cliff remain as popular today as they did 10 years ago. When things go wrong and the group fails, women leaders are likely to get blamed even if the failure was caused by events that took place before they came on board. Women report having fewer support networks at work, not getting needed information, and not being acknowledged for their efforts.

Women are also more likely to experience burn out and become disillusioned with their jobs and organizations and may end up quitting as a result. Cultural expectations also work against women who aspire to become leaders. Many never seriously consider becoming leaders because the process of socialization has taught them leadership professions are only open to males.

Negative stereotypes and discrimination can lower the self-confidence for some women and make them reluctant to take risks or strive for leadership positions. And since our culture highlights nurturing roles of women, many enter service professions such as teaching, nursing, clerical work, or roles that support the larger organization.


Changes on the Horizon

Fortunately, attitudes toward women in leadership are changing, especially among the younger generation. As more women succeed in management roles, stereotypes will continue to erode. When this happens, women will experience less prejudice and more opportunities.

As global environments become more competitive, management styles are shifting away from old leadership styles to more transformational styles that emphasize communication, teamwork, and responsiveness. These leadership styles will benefit women in today’s workforce.


Gail McShan-Elly is a writer and blogger. She is married and believes greatness is achieved by serving others.

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