Monday, August 16, 2010

Women in Leadership; It's a touchy subject

Women in leadership; it’s a touchy subject, or is it? Maybe for the females it is. Women face multi-dimensional obstacles in today’s workplace. Women have been overcoming challenges since the beginning. Although there have been quite a few women in high leadership roles, it hasn’t changed the day to day for women. For them it’s a delicate balancing act.

A study called “Holding Women Back” surveyed 10,000 leaders. It states that as both men and women rose through the ranks, the gap widened between the genders in involvement in leadership development programs. At the first level of management, the study found, 19% of men and 15% of women were in high-potential programs. By the time they reached the top executive level, 39% of men compared to 26% of women were considered high-potentials. A lot of the recommendations tend to be unconscious, i.e. “Mark is like me, he’ll be a good candidate.”

Women are expected to combine leadership with compassion, rightly so. I’m sure their employee’s mothers were compassionate while growing up. Women must conform to two very conflicting sets of expectations, too pushy, too soft, too accommodating, too sexless, and too sexy. With this narrow defined set of expectations, how are women supposed to react and how are they to act while in a leadership position?

“Holding Women Back” study says “We’re recommending formal programs…Does the program have fairness and common standards? Do we have ways to evaluate who’s in the program? Once you do [this], you start to see the gender differences disappear.”

They also stated that women need to make their career aspirations known to managers and observe how others get opportunities and promotions, reaching out for similar chances rather than waiting to be approached by management.

As a woman in leadership, or a woman in her early career, she must voice her career needs and wants. Push past the obstacles holding her back and learn to soften her image while maintaining authority, determination, and competency. She must learn strategies for giving and receiving feedback and set clear goals.

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