Will the USA ever have a female president? A year ago a war fought with a bloodthirsty ferocity between Democrats and Republicans gave a semblance of an answer to this question.
Hillary’s not just a singular example that’s contemplative. It’s a man’s kingdom and the fight to reach the top is against Goliath but alas we are not even talking about David as an opponent here. Until, of course, David is Amazon (Not Amazon.com), this fight can only be a pyrrhic victory.
Even Amazon (Yeah! Of course! Amazon.com) stands quite contradictory to the eponymous character. It fails hands down in the number of women leaders in senior management. There are only 18 female senior executives in the company with only one of them (Beth Galetti) reporting directly to Jeff Bezos. He is served by 12 men who hail themselves as the S Team (Senior Team) as made known to the world by a leak of an internal directory.
Apple’s half-hearted women onboarding is at vehement crossroads with its stance on women empowerment with a single female executive representation at a high-profile event.
Is leadership ‘blue’?
All of these instances lead automatically to another round of questions. Why do women often settle for the runner-up crown when war is between the opposite genders? Is it because of the biological differences as once infamously offered by James Damore, Google’s engineer?
The Women’s Leadership Gap- a study confirms only 6% of women go onto becoming CEOs even though they earn a majority of educational degrees, 25% are in executive and senior-level management seats, 20% on boards seats, and 44% in S&P’s labor force.
So few women at the top.
Not just presidential electorate. Not just Hollywood. Not just business. Not just monarchies. It’s true everywhere. Is it a new definition of universal truth? Perhaps.
The logic of leadership gap:
Narrowed prism of looking at ‘leadership’: Leadership is often construed to be set to masculine norms. Attributes like aggression and ambition are associated with leadership which women may fail at, a fact quite shy of the truth.
Deeply rooted and insidious barriers: Men are hesitant to approach a women leader for fear of an emotional reaction. A woman never receives honest feedback due to sex segregation and role delineation. Women are supposed to ‘Act like a man’ and ‘Laugh at sexist jokes’ to find relevance with men leaders.
Women’s deploring self-belief: Women aren’t too comfortable with self-branding. A study by the University of California’s Wiebke Bleidorn, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, claims men have higher self-esteem no matter the country or the culture. Women are not taught from their initial years to be unapologetically competitive. They feel bad competing aggressively and find themselves alone in a rat race to the top. They never feel utterly confident and look at tasks as impossible and intimidating even if they aren’t.
Threatened men-mentality: There is a cut-throat competition at the top and elimination of one entire gender of species make it easier for the remaining gender to thrive well. Men feel threatened to appreciate women leadership due to ingrained and pernicious gender stereotypes. As also emphasized by a study led by Bocconi University’s Ekaterina Netchaeva, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
Unrealistic expectations from women: F.A.I.L.UR.E is conjecture. When men fail, it’s okay. If women stumble, they are penalized disproportionately. These unrealistic expectations from women are the subject of a study by Stanford University’s Cecilia L. Ridgeway published in the Journal of Social Issues. Moreover, Lean In/McKinsey & Company report lays down how there are 30% more chances of women who negotiate to be labeled intimidating.
Policy issues: Women don’t have enough opportunities to manage family roles and childcare responsibilities being the primary caretakers at home. Not to mention, there is a dearth of concomitant training and leadership development initiatives.
Backlash: Due to fear of backlash (More pronounced than men receive), women are sent packing their bags. They fail to negotiate for flexitimes and standardized employment contracts. Even clothing items from skirt length to lipstick shade to heel-height can give out inadvertent wrong messages.
Structural differences of brain wirings: Across neuroscience literature, meta-analysis reveals a difference in tissue densities and absolute volumes of different parts of the brain for both the genders. They are suited for different kinds of roles and responsibilities which leadership isn’t immune too. Women are being tested on inherent biological parameters symptomatic of men even though both genders bring a complete farrago of qualities to the table.
But leadership is ruled by planet Venus
The world is teetering on the brink of massive gender discourses and controversies beseeching for world’s attention, which at times seem like a platitude, but is nevertheless critical as a catalyst. One thing different this time is- Men aren’t afraid of the gender cacophony. It has excited the imagination of women who felt shortchanged by everything and men who are taking into their stride to see women succeed to check what it really entails.
Paradigm for Parity, a Rockefeller Foundation Initiative, is giving women’s representation a facelift by pledging 100 female leaders in Fortune 500 by 2025 and it seems to be working.
Consequently, no strict definition of leadership can demystify an enigma presented by the Women Presidents’ Organization survey. 100% of the fastest growing companies with women head provide health insurance, 66% offer telecommuting, and 80% offer life insurance. Even extrapolating the statistics to a nation-wide dimension, women tend to be great at nurturing.
The success of Wonder Woman directed by a woman director coming after failures of other same storylines like Elektra and Catwoman isn’t inconspicuous. Its significance is a cultural shift of a sweeping conceptual and temporal agreement on womanhood emphasizing hero’s gender is inconsequential.
Under the umbrella of the theme ‘Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World’- the catchphrase ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ made the rounds of WEF (World Economic Forum), Davos. The wave of #MeToo and #TimesUp movement has gripped the best of Hollywood award shows from Brit Awards to BAFTA to Golden Globes.
It has pressurized business world at WEF, known to be an elite boy club, to announce the co-chair of the annual meeting with no men on board and 7 women. There was no remark, even an innocuous one, as to how it’s a completely new exercise.
All women co-chair isn’t the only thing front and center about women leadership at Davos. Two panels are discussing sexual harassment at The Equality Lounge- a space hosting interviews and discussions. The female delegate badges have been kept different from female spouses accompanying their partners, giving women leaders true recognition and appreciation in their own right and not as a guarantee of being married to men leaders. Moreover, Justin Trudeau spoke at length about a choice to be made between inequalities and risking failure.
It’s been so long watching men in positions of leadership and power that primitive psychological palisades have been hardwired into our consciousness. It’s difficult to see through the cloudy glasses of prejudices about how the world beyond the obfuscation and opaqueness, has changed. The future must be a time women leadership talk dies. But for that kind of future, the present must hold a testimony of the skirmishes. While history is still being written, for this moment, new world order and women leadership seem inseparable.