Women in Leadership

In the contemporary world, leadership is an indispensable attribute that aims at enhancing the continued existence of almost all institutions. Effective leadership skills can also result to organizational changes, which are based on values, vision, as well as symbols and emotional exchange. However, the topic of leadership is one of the topics, which received little attention in the contemporary world. Thus, in women leadership, the following statements conform to the challenges that women face in leadership. Many people believe that women leadership is invisible and that they are holding back their responsibility and leadership, because of the assumption that the corporate world is the men’s industry. Leadership is also seen as a domain that is male dominated and is directly linked to authoritarian leadership style, an attribute which women lack. In the corporate world, tokenism prevails among many of the largest companies, which endangers the value of female leaders when compared to male leaders. Most of the female leaders have lower expectations when compared to men. Therefore, they are not affected by the entitlement effect. In addition, women face a lot of challenges before getting the leadership positions, as compared to the challenges, faced by men.

The topic regarding women leadership has recently attracted much attention, since there is a perception that the leadership positions should be held by men; however, this tradition is challenged by an increased number of female leaders who have taken on leadership roles within many organizations. This paper shows the recognition of female leaders and their performance as leaders in terms of corporeality as well as in a spectacular perspective. The researchers try to understand how female leaders enact their leadership skills through their materiality within a given period of time as well as within different settings, theorizing the processes of becoming leaders. The phenomenon of a woman as a leader is studied as an entity that passes from one incomplete assemblage to another, rather than as a singular developing identity. Therefore, this paper is focused on the paradoxes that complicate the performance of women as leaders. For instance, one of the paradoxes that serve as a rationale for this study is that, while equity has been observed as a truism of contemporary leadership in the society, it is evident that women have been marginalized and are not fairly represented as managers or leaders. In addition, some women, who have been successful leaders, sometimes, acknowledge themselves as both legitimately and at times differently or awkwardly placed as leaders at work.

The study of female leadership within and between such paradoxes is considered to be a problematic and even socially critical theory, as a result of the assumption that the modern literature emphasizes on women`s struggle for political legitimacy. Because of this, there are conceptual tools employed in this study, which are taken from post-feminism as well as post-structuralism. However, such theories refute the literal categories in favor of the ironic categories, which are opposing ideas to be understood as both necessary and true. Thus, to understand female leadership, Jean Francois Lyotard’s (1984) idea of the “performative” should be considered and analyzed.

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Other theories are also based on the spectacle of the ‘the female grotesque’ and insistence on partiality, doubt, and the importance of ‘undoing’ the fixity of modernist categories. Because of this, one influential theory of the ‘cyborg identity’ is used in the study; it is based on the technological assemblage, which is partly human and partly machine-like. Therefore, it allows for the acknowledgement that women leaders demonstrate realms beyond the boundaries, which are imposed by the same differences such as human and machine, present and past etc. Therefore, by employing these tools, the performance of a number of women leaders can be examined, using an empirical study, which focuses on some influential women leaders in male-defined as well as male-dominated settings. Thus, the study is based on two key components, which provide periods of time when women leaders were not recognized, erupting as a unique spectacle in places, which are both enabling and constraining. In addition, this study also foregrounds the unique complexities of three recognized public performances, in which women made a spectacle of themselves, whereas the analysis refuses the condition under which women are recognized as leaders. On the other hand, the analysis demonstrates the value of rethinking the process of leadership in terms of the complexities for women as embodied public performers.

The study also focuses on the tactics, used by women leaders in their work, focusing on professions of law, business, politics, academics etc. The information which is seen as evidence, emerging from the analysis, demonstrates that women leaders are seen to be both enacting as well as troubling leadership conventions. Thus, the analysis shows that there are certain tactical shifts, where women leaders are seen to de-territorialize both the forms of content and forms of expression; it constitutes the performance of women as leaders. As a result, there is visible tactical assemblage, employed by these women leaders; moreover, one can see the ways in which such tactics separate, combine, and compound similarities and/or differences, equality/inequality, either/or binaries. There are certain specific tactics or maneuvers, which are used to achieve the legitimacy in public, revolving around four distinct ironic categories: legitimate cross dressing, assertive defense, proper blasphemy, and humanly-mechanic.

When examined together, these components compel a re-theorizing of the women leadership study as both insider and outsider, an entity, engaged in the on-going study of assembling or disassembling the leadership. In addition, women leadership is demonstrated to be not one, not multiple but multiplicities; hence, this re-theorizing provides a more elaborated account of women leadership, working to achieve legitimacy, credibility, and propriety as leaders. For instance, political leadership, which is usually considered as a substitute for political elite, authority, or political management, is closely related to power. Political leadership is seen as an activity that comprises of provision of vision, or taking stands, and interacting effectively when managing power as well as authority in order to arrive at a sufficient organizational and political realignment to realize the intention of leaders. On the other hand, political leadership is seen as a reciprocal process of mobilizing people with specific objectives, values, and various economic and political recourses in line with competition and conflict management in order to realize the goals independently or mutually, held by both leaders and their subordinates. Based on the ambiguity of this concept, a construct political leadership comprises of terminological uncertainty and conceptual confusion, which, in addition, is confounded by the multidimensional nature of the political leadership phenomenon.

Thus, one of the critical aspects of political leadership is seen in the context of politics of gender. Women are putting a lot of effort in the Supreme Court, which is considered to be a powerful legislative agenda, and a woman was appointed as the secretary of state. There are other important appointments, such as Alexis Herman, a black woman and key White House staff member to Secretary of Labor; however, this did not alter the arithmetic of gender issues in politics. In addition, in the U.S, the number of women in the senate is less than 10%, since women picked up three seats, which is not seen to be enough to have an effect on a shift in power. Thus, there have been obstacles to women participation in politics, considering the male model of leadership and the lack of party support.

Women leadership in the global society

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Globally, less that 0.005% of the world’s political leaders are women; however, the number of women, who hold senior positions in politics, such as prime ministers or presidents, has risen since 1960, particularly when Sirimavo Bandaranaike took office. Looking closely at the period from the 1960s to the1990s the emergence of women leadership in politics arose; for instance, Indira Gandhi was elected as Prime Minister of India in 1966, Golda Meir was also elected as prime minister of Israel in 1969. There are many other examples of women, who obtained senior leadership positions; some of them are: Isabel Peron in Argentina, Elizabeth Domitien in the General African Republic in 1974, Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain and Portugal’s Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo, whom both came to power in 1979.

In the 1980s, there were also women, who came to power, for instance, Vigidis Finnbogadottir in Iceland became the first woman to be elected as a constitutional head of state. In addition, in the same year, Domenica’s Eugenia Charles was elected as the first woman prime minister of the Caribbean country. In 1981, Gro Harlem Brundtland was elected as the first prime minister of Norway. Moreover, she was the youngest leader of the country ever. In 1982, Milka Planinc in Yugoslavia became the Eastern Europe’s first woman prime minister. Other women leaders include Maria Liberia-Peters who was elected as Netherlands-Antilles first prime minister in 1984. In 1986, Corazon Aquino was elected as the first woman president of the Philippines. Furthermore, Benazir Bhutto was elected as the prime minister of Pakistan at the age of 35, hence, becoming the first woman to be elected as the head of the modern Islamic state. However, her bid to retain power never materialized, because the high court of Pakistan made a ruling that her government was corrupt. Her leadership was accused of driving the country into economic crisis by misappropriating billions and using the police to thwart rival political groups. However, she denied the accusations, claiming that her government was ousted in an attempt to consolidate power. In 1988, Burma’s dissident leader, Aung Suu Kyi, emerged on the political scene and as the determined leader she was trying to oppose the nation’s militant style of leadership. However, under house arrest since 1989, Aung Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to the unprecedented political change through political settlement and not violence.

The trend of women leadership has been increasing, and in the 1990s more than 13 women became presidents or prime ministers of their nations. These include the first woman prime minister of Lithuania, Kazimicra Prunskiene, the president of Nicaragua, Violetta Chamorro, Mary Robinson in Ireland, Edith Cresson in France, Ertha Pascai-Trouillot in Haiti; they all were their countries first woman president. In addition, other recognized women leaders are Hanna Suchocka, who became Poland’s prime minister in 1992, Kim Campbell who was elected as the prime minister of Canada, hence becoming the North America`s head of Government. In addition, at the same time, Tansu Ciller was elected as the first female prime minister of Turkey. In 1994, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga became Sri Lanka’s prime minister, and she was recognized as the only woman to follow another woman into office. Ruth Dreifuss was elected as State Councilor; the position is recognized as the highest political leadership position in Switzerland. And finally, Janet Jagan, who at the age of 77was elected as the first woman president in Guyana, and who succeeded like many other recognized global female leaders such as Corazon Aquino and Benazir Bhutto.

There is a critical distinction between leadership and management, for instance leadership is observed as a process, whereas management is a position-based role. On the other hand, leadership is based on identifiable interpersonal roles. Leaders are charged with the role of producing significant changes and developing long-term visions related to solving crisis and empowerment. Leadership rests on the potential, which becomes available when the ego, on which management is based, is peeled away. Based on a theoretical perspective, there are differences between transactional and transformational leadership. In the same way, there is underrepresentation of qualified women, which hold leadership positions, which has resulted into a gender gap, existing in many social areas.

In the contemporary world, there has been a view that only males are capable of performing leadership roles. This notion has led to a situation where women are denied access to leadership. In addition, women who seek to obtain the leadership positions face a lot of obstacles, since they are overwhelmed in tackling the obvious obstacles. If leadership is observed as genderless, then why it is so difficult for women to gain access to the leadership positions. The other crucial aspect is that in most organizations women are seen as effectively providing leadership skills; however, some people still believe that they are less capable and less productive than men.

In most institutions, such as schools, administration is more attuned to feminine than the masculine modes of leadership behaviors. Female leadership attributes, which based on nurturing, being sensitive, empathetic, caring, and cooperative are increasingly associated with effective administration. However, these are innate and immensely crucial characteristics. On the other hand, women leadership qualities are faced with higher attrition and slower career mobility in most sectors. In most organizations, for instance, in the education sector, data has indicated that gender, more than age, experience or competence is a string determinant of the role of individuals in education.

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African-American women, who hold leadership positions in various educational settings face multiple burdens of sexism and racism and hence confront significant challenges in their promotion or climbing up the career ladder. On the other hand, race, just like gender, is the greatest obstacle to career development. Therefore, it is necessary for the management of various institutions to fill ranks, particularly at the highest level of management with individuals who fit the existing norms. Gender has been seen as the major obstacle to women leadership; some people believe that women are compelled to lead in a particular way which is considered the norm; in other words this way should be similar to the manner in which men lead. Therefore, utilization of the method of leadership, portrayed by men, is the easiest way for a woman to be hired for any administrative position or any leadership position, especially since this approach to leadership has been put forward and established as acceptable to the society and successful in attracting promotion as well as recognition.

In some situations, women are seen as members of the unrepresented group and they do not obtain jobs in administration because of the widespread belief that women represent the minorities who lack requisite leadership skills. In addition, women in leadership positions, which are male-dominated, demonstrate that there is a serious need to be better qualified than men against whom they compete. Furthermore, the African American women are required to be twice as good as others with the same leadership aspirations. Therefore, women who want to become leaders are not selected or recruited for training programs which makes it harder for them to break into the system.

There has been a rise in hiring of women in administrative positions; in addition, it has been observed that women tend to occupy leadership positions in most institutions; however gender gap represents an impediment to potential institutional improvement. However, most scholars note that gender has remained an obstacle to women, who seek and would like to obtain leadership positions. This underrepresentation of women in leadership positions has been explained using three models. The first model is known as the meritocracy model or the individual perspective model. These are regarded as psychological orientation. Based on this model women are looked at for cause: personal traits, characteristics, abilities, qualities, as well as individual attitudes, such as self image, confidence, motivation and aspiration. The belief associated with this model is that women are regarded as not assertive enough.

The belief concerning women`s lack of desire for power is not related to their will to obtain power, but rather how power is perceived, which is contrary to men. This method, in which women use power they posses, is different, since women use power to empower others. It is based on the argument that power is not finite but it expands as it is shared. The second model is the organizational perspective or the discriminative model. According to this model, there are differences between career aspirations and achievements of men and women due to the limited opportunities for women, which accompany systemic gender bias. These models are used to explain how organizational structures are used as mechanisms to discriminate against women. Men are seen to advance into higher levels since they are favored in areas of promotional practices. On the other hand, in most settings, women cannot advance because of the barriers they face even if they choose to do so. The other model is woman’s place or social perspective model. Based on this model, cultural and social norms encourage discriminatory practices. It is observed that these societal norms include differences in payment and status.

Women leadership styles According to Dr. Patricia Gabow

According to interview with Dr. Patricia Gabow, it is vivid that the main attribute that inspired her to great heights in the hospital management in Denver is her family. Patricia claims that the separation from the City Government was a way of the hospital services` improvement. She claims that leadership can be defined as the dynamic association, which is based on mutual influence and common purpose of collaborators and leaders. Consequently, the leadership style is the manner and approach of the provision of plans, direction and motivation of individuals. There are three different types of leadership. These are authoritarian or autocratic, participative or democratic and deligative or free reign. A good leader should use all the three styles, but some bad leaders tend to incline to one style. The autocratic style is a case whereby the leader tells his/her employers what is to be done and how it should be done. In this way, he/she does not get any advice from the workers. This style can be applied when there is limited time and the employers are willing to work.

Participative leader considers the ideas of some of his/her employees and uses these ideas in the decision-making process. He/she, however, makes the final decision, which shows his/her authority. It is used in cases when both the leader and the other workers have some information. The best decisions can be drawn from this style of leadership. The deligative style is where the employees are allowed to make decisions, though the leader is still responsible for the decisions made. It is used when the leader has full confidence on the workers. For the purposes of this paper I will only consider the authoritarian and democratic styles.

There are differences between men and women leadership styles; however, the difference does not mean that one dominates over the other. The differences in leadership styles are that men observe leadership as leading whereas women observe leadership as facilitating. On the other hand, women are seen to embrace relationships, sharing, and process, while men are seen to focus on task execution, organizational goals` achievement, hoarding of information as well as winning. Most women leaders focus mostly on instructional leadership styles in supervisory practices. It is observed that in the area of instructional leadership women spend many years as administrators and acquire more educational skills as compared to men.

Most women leaders focus more on instructional leadership, whereas, on the other hand, men focus mostly on organizational matters. In addition, women focus on facilitative leadership, hence enabling others to make their contributions through delegation of duties, encouragement, as well as, nudging from behind. Therefore leadership attributes, demonstrated by women, focus on developing relationships, since they interact more frequently than men; it is also observed that men stress task accomplishment and tend to lead their subordinates through a series of concrete exchanges that encompass rewarding employees for a task well-performed and punishing them for an ineffective job performance. However, most women leaders encourage contributive and consensual decision making and emphasize more the process, whereas men tend to focus on majority rule as well as emphasizing organizational goals` achievement. Therefore, men use the traditional top-down leadership style, whereas women pay more attention to the transformational leadership style, transforming the subordinates` self-interest into achieving organizational goals by encouraging their feelings and perceptions of self-worth, active participation and sharing of information. Women spend a lot of time in unscheduled meetings and are more likely to interact with their employees.

The leadership qualities of women are characterized by six significant patterns, which are identified as behaviors that empower, restructure, teach, provide role models, stimulate group discussion, as well as, encourage openness. On the other hand, Gillet-Karam used four behaviors, such as vision behavior; whereby, in this category, women leaders are observed to take more risks to bring about appropriate changes. On the other hand, according to the people behavior, women leaders provide more care and show respect to their subordinates. As for influence behavior, women are seen to act collaboratively, and for the values behavior, women are seen to spend most of their time building trust as well as openness among their subordinates. No matter how much the leadership qualities of women are delineated, women have been described to possess the leadership capabilities and skills to be excellent leaders. The capabilities of women leaders are the following: women leaders are seen to have a greater knowledge of and concern for instructional supervision. In addition, women leaders are seen to be more effective administrators.

Barriers to effective women leadership

There are many barriers that impede the leadership of women. There are certain myths, which suggest that societal attitudes towards women is an obstacle that identifies women leaders as too weak physically; hence they are not task oriented enough. In addition, women leaders are seen to be too dependent on feedback as well as on the evaluation of others. In most cases, women receive little or no encouragement to acquire leadership positions, whereas men are encouraged to enter in leadership positions to a greater degree than women. This lack of encouragement leads women to be discouraged to obtain leadership positions. This lack of encouragement has resulted into women leaving their professions in greater numbers than men. On the other hand, the lack of formal as well as informal social networks results into the lack of recognition, which is mostly related to career advancement.

Leadership requires hard work, long work hours and a lot of in-house politics, which is stress provoking, especially when women have childcare and other related home responsibilities. A woman is able to work for more than 70 hours per week and this may conflict with family responsibilities. Therefore, the isolation, which is linked to the minority status, gender expectations, as well as gender bias, coupled with the vast amount of stress, which forms part of the job, coupled with the lonely at the top feelings are some of the barriers, which women experience. The other barriers involve the lack of role models as well as mentors for women because there are only a few women who are holding leadership positions.


One of the ways to encourage women to seek for the leadership positions is mentoring. This is an important process, which can be used to encourage women to succeed in acquiring leadership positions. Mentoring is an important process, which can greatly enhance income, promoting responsibilities for individuals, who experience such relationships. In addition, mentoring can enhance the needs of both women and institutions and can assist in attracting and retaining women in their professions. Mentoring of younger employees can increase retention and reduce turnover, and assist mentees in dealing with organizational matters and accelerate their assimilation into the organizational culture. The women mentees may benefit, since there are people who care enough to provide support to them, advice and assist them in the interpretation of information. There are many benefits of mentoring, which are not only being felt by the mentees and the institutions, but also by the mentors themselves. The mentees, mentors as well as the entire organization experience the fulfillment of transmitting the long-earned wisdom, hence influencing the next generation of the upper management, as well as, achieving appreciation from the younger employees.

It is not strange for women to have men who act as mentors, but it is advisable for women to have female mentors, because when the females interact and share their experiences and knowledge, the results become of paramount significance to women. In addition, this ensures that the mentoring process assists the women in developing self-esteem, coupled with aggressive managerial personalities as well as non-traditional attitudes about women and their jobs. Thus, nurturing of attitudes and characteristics would allow for success of the organization. Thus, mentoring may be used to assist the present and future leaders to exhibit personalities that make it possible for women to advance into the leadership positions.

Useful techniques for advancement

In order to obtain leadership positions, there are certain careers enhancing techniques, which may be used by women. For example, the career enhancing techniques include availing themselves to the mentors, applying sponsors as role models, and providing women with a means for obtaining vital information as well as moral support and providing constructive means of dealing with stress and frustration at the workplace. It is also necessary to share feelings about work and to provide encouragement to one another. Therefore, women should be able to understand what their career entails and develop good listening and communication skills and other appropriate skills that may help them compete against everyone else at a particular level. In addition, women should be able not to allow anyone to discourage or ignore their abilities. They should display visible and valued competencies at workplace, particularly for jobs, which are regarded as stepping stones to the top. On the other hand, women should know what they want by becoming willing to balance, prioritize, and make sacrifices to excel to the top. Finally, women should be in a position to identify individuals, who can assist them when they are in unrelated jobs. This can be achieved by planning and strategizing.

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