Women in leadership – how successful are women in this day and age?
A leader has been defined as a person who has an ability to provide vision and direction to an organization and possesses the necessary attributes that can help in fostering the goals of that organization (Chliwniak in Growe and Montgomery, 1999; Donald, Dale, and Sonya, 2006). While various definitions of a leader do not mention the issue of gender anywhere, research show that leadership has been dominated by the male gender in the past. However, evidence show a modern female can make a good leaders just like his male counterpart; or even better. For example, studies conducted in education institutions in the past suggest that schools which are administered by ladies registered better performance that those that are administered by men. Their success has been associated with attributes that makes an excellent administrator such as cooperative, sensitive, compromising, accommodative, emphatic, caring, and intuitive.
Caprino (2013) identified six reasons why women in America are not leading in corporate sector. The first is the little difference in the understanding or valuing of the difference between men and women. According to her, both gender’s behavior are so hard-wired in the people’s brains and are also culturally influenced. The second reason is the inability of the female to embrace an attitude of whole-self authenticity. Females hardly behave as who they really are. The third point is the clash between life, career, and family. She believes females are at a disadvantage due to high prioritization of domestic tasks. Fourthly, females are different from men in that they cannot cope with extreme work demands especially in for one who beliefs life outside work is equally important. Fifth is about the issue of marginalization which has acted to suppress, diminish, and sideline the female gender. Lastly, there is lack of personal accountability among females. Females have been viewed to be poor in utilizing existing opportunities to their advantage and break the glass ceiling.
According to Schaef (1985), the fact that men and women exhibit difference in their leadership styles does not necessarily imply that one gender is superior to another gender. Schaef argued that such a difference might be a result of men regarding leadership as an act of leading with ladies viewing leadership as a means of facilitating. However, communities have acted in a manner that suggest only good leaders come from the males. Cultural beliefs in certain places have been blamed for perceiving male leaders as incompetent, unproductive, and less capable than their male counterparts (Toh and Leonardelli, 2012). Although the past saw women facing difficulties ascending career or elective positions due to cultural beliefs, recent developments has seen more and more women assuming the leadership roles. This view is supported by the studies of Norris and Inglehart (2004) who found out the traditional beliefs that considered women as less capable when it comes to leadership opportunities have substantially declined in some postindustrial societies. This is where the younger generations born after postwar era being far much more egalitarian than their parents and grandparents. Recent efforts meant to empower women to take up leadership roles and participate equally in decision-making processes have borne little fruits (Jackson, 2001). A Harvard university report suggested that the main reason behind this slow progress is associated with a multiplicity of barriers including institution barriers, structural barriers, and cultural barriers (Norris and Inglehart, 2008).
The influence of culture on leadership has attracted a lot of interest among scholars. Scholars have sought to understand the impact of cultural beliefs and leadership in various communities and countries (Chin, 2013). Some countries are perceived to be culturally tighter than other countries and this has been observed to influence female’s chances of holding leadership positions (Toh and Leonardelli, 2013). Some cultures are perceived to be tighter while some are perceived to be looser. A culture that is tighter has been associated with tendencies to reinforce the traditional male-dominated leadership. Countries such as China, Japan, and Germany has been viewed to be culturally looser than USA. There is a high probability that a female ascend to high leadership position in a loose culture than a tight culture. Even in circumstances that a lady climb to higher levels of career, a tight culture expects the female to continue acting feminine. These findings were reinforced by investigations of Al-Suwaihel (2010) who found out there is a relationship between culture, leadership, and gender in Kuwait.
House et al (1999) sought to understand the extent to which leadership is culturally contingent. With an extensive study covering many countries, they concluded that cultural forces conspire to influence what people expect leaders to do, how leaders are treated in the society, and what leaders may choose to do or not do. Women in leadership has been compared between USA and Japan in the context of cultural influence. Although women in both countries attained the highest possible level of studies, there career paths after graduation are totally different. Females account for 63% of the employees in Japan, one of the lowest among the rich countries. Furthermore, 70% of the Japanese ladies stop working for at least 10 years upon giving birth to their first child. However, it is only 30% of Americans. Of the 70% who stopped working, a greater majority of them may never seek employment again (Economist, 2014). The study of why this disparity has been a subject of interest.
Evidence suggests that despite the fact that working conditions of women has improved in both countries, the advancement of women in the career ladder is still very slow. For example, of the Fortune 500 companies, women accounted for only 15.7% of the top leadership positions. However, a comparison of the situation in Japan to USA reveal high contrast. The idea of equity in jobs for both male and females is a more recent idea in japan than USA. A survey done in the year 2003 showed that while Japanese ladies held only 2.7% of the top level jobs. Companies operating in both countries were further used to study the gender perceptions when it comes to career ladder and HP Company and Sony Company were selected. Statistics showed that while 25% of the females work in managerial positions in the HP of America, only less than 4% were employed in HP of Japan. This reveals a very start contrast in the way females climb the career ladder in both countries (Woods, 2005). However, in the case of Sony USA, female managers accounted for 32.7% of the management positions while only a paltry 2.9% of the Japanese managers at Sony Japan were females. Ishibashi and Kottke (2009) established that gender stereotyping was associated with the low percentage of female executives in Japan. Until recently, women were viewed as lesser human beings in Japans deserving less managerial positions and leadership roles. Scholars have further associated such stereotypes with the Confucian ideology which is dominant in the Asian culture. Communities that belief in the Confucian doctrine belief in reverence to education, unquestioned obedience to the family, and loyalty to one’s superior. Men being seen as the heads of the family, the cultural belief has been such that women should not ascend to levels above men.
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