Women in Leadership The Characteristics Research Paper

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In the first instance, the research undertaken on this topic has attempted to be as inclusive as possible. To this end databases such as Ebscohost and Quesia were consulted for up-to-date sources and data. However the research was also limited to the ideas and objectives suggested in chapter one. The following review is indicative of the some of the most important studies within the parameter of the central questions to be addressed.

The situation of women in leadership roles

The theme of female empowerment, the status of women and gender equality are significant issues in the world today. There have been dramatic changes in the past century with regard to the position of women in the workplace and in leadership. It is now generally acknowledged that leadership is a gender -- free concept. However, at the same time there are still very real differences between the genders in terms of advancement, remuneration and position in commerce and society in general. This leads to the obvious question as to why these disparities still exist today in advanced and developed countries.

Understanding these reasons is a complex problem as causative factors include not only gender issues but also historical racial, social and other factors and variables. One should also take into account the fact that although the leadership literature in recent years has begun to include studies on women and leadership, historically, most of the studies on this subject did not see gender as an important issue and did not deal to any great extent with the life experiences of women. As Fine ( 2009) suggests, the views and representations dealing with women in leadership were articulated by men and based on the experiences of a male -- centered worldview (Fine, 2009).

Coleman (2003) refers to a number of "orthodoxies" linked to gender and leadership. These refer to norms that prescribe an inferior status to women as well as the stereotype of a male-centered or 'macho' style of male leadership; which is a stereotype that is not even realistically applicable even to men (Coleman, 2003. P. 325). This is part of the reason why women fare so badly in terms of leadership statistics. As Needleman ( 2010) states, a 2009 study by the New York-based Catalyst Inc. shows that only three percent of chief executive officers and approximately fourteen percent of executive-officer positions within Fortune 500 companies are women. (Needleman, 2010). This aspect is further underscored by other studies; for example, Fischlmayr (2002) states that women are still under-represented in international management. It is generally concluded in many studies that it is more difficult for women than men to become leaders and to succeed in male-dominated leadership roles (Eagly, 2007).

In general, there is a perceived gap between the leadership performance of men and women. Men are often viewed as better leaders, and women often adopt masculine behaviors to fit into male-dominated hierarchical structures and systems. However, there are many studies that show that that in terms of actual leadership qualities there are no differences in gender. This is supported by many studies. A good example is a study on the increased leadership roles and competence of women in leadership by Lockwood ( 2004 ) entitled the glass ceiling: domestic and international perspectives. Lockwood notes that advances have been made in recent years in addressing the issue of the advancement of women in the workplace and in the corporate environment.

Worldwide, individual women have been breaking through the glass ceiling. Since the year 2000, New Zealand has appointed its first woman prime minister; the first woman became president of Central Bank in Finland; the former president of Ireland became the first woman Commissioner of Human Rights in the United Nations; and the World Health Organization has its first woman Director-General, the former prime minister of Norway.

( Lockwood, 2004 )

There has also been an increase in the number of corporate female managers, for example.

Obstacles and Barriers

The literature also provides a wide range of studies and articles on the obstacles and barriers in advancement in leadership roles for women. This is a central concern of the present study. For example, the literature refers to the fact that while there have been more women leaders in various sectors of society in recent decades but that there are some areas where female advancement, particularly in leadership roles, has faced an almost impenetrable "glass ceiling." This is a social barrier that has meant that many women who have leadership and administrative abilities are often prevented from reaching their potential. In an article entitled Women and Leadership: The State of Play and Strategies for Change by Hamrick, F. (2009) the author refers to studies that explore the "…range of circumstantial, environmental, and structural factors that limit women's access to leadership opportunities and explore individual, organizational, and societal strategies for change" ( Hamrick, 2009). This study also refers to areas where these stereotypes have broken down and where there is clear evidence of female leadership capability.

Another important barrier is self-perception and self-efficacy. This refers to the view that women may not have the necessary self-confidence to be leaders as a result of views and perceptions generated in a male orientated society. In this regard, a study by Fischlmayr entitled Female self-perception as barrier to international careers? (20020 provides useful insight. The author states that little has been written about the women's own fault for not being selected and that "… women themselves contribute to their under-representation in international management (Fischlmayr C. ( 2002) p. 773).

Female Qualities and Advantages

When discussing the issue of female qualities and advantages suited to leadership roles, one also has to bear in mind the feminist's perspective on this issue. This refers to the view that;

… feminism does not claim women are superior to men nor does it esteem masculine or feminine behaviors at the expense of the other. It does reject negative cultural images of women as weak or incompetent and affirms their ability to be strong, intelligent and ethical Leaders. ( Turock, 2001, p.115)

This is an important perspective as the view of female qualities and advantages is not intended to be sexist in any sense but rather to redress the inequality and imbalance in perception of female leadership.

A study that emphasizes the positive and unique qualities of female leadership is a LEADERSHIP TRAINING HANDBOOK for WOMEN by Afkhami et al. The authors refer to the fact that studies from various disciplines come to a similar conclusion; namely that, "… there is a direct causal relationship between women's involvement in social life and the strengthening of values, attitudes, and behaviors that reflect free, fair, and tolerant social interaction" and that "Achieving sustainable development in developing countries, or in less developed areas within developed countries, is unlikely in the absence of women's leadership" (Afkhami et al.).

This perception of the unique qualities that women can contribute to leadership roles is also emphasized in an article by Schyns et al. ( 2008) which states that, "

modern organizations are working towards and actually needing a modern leadership style that is characterized by more stereotypically female qualities, such as concern for others" ( Schyns et al. 2008). This aspect is also related to the increasing realization that transformational leadership is a form of leadership that is needed in the contemporary working and business environment. In this context there are two theoretical forms of leadership styles. These are referred to as masculinised and transformational.

A view that occurs in the literature is that the transformational approach to leadership is important today because it focuses on teamwork and cooperation. This form of leadership is contrasted with masculinised leadership, which stresses typical male -- centered attributes, such as instrumentality. Transformational leadership is more focused on cooperation and intuition -- which have often been described as female qualities. Therefore, the advantage for women would be that & #8230;

…modern organizations have a growing need for transformational leadership. Leaders today are expected to behave in a transformational way rather than in a dominant, autocratic way. As transformational leadership fits the female stereotype...women should suffer less from a lack of fit when using transformational leadership styles. (Schyns et al. 2008)

Chapter Three

Research Methodology

The central methodology that was used in this research was a combination of micro and macro studies. This means that individual leadership studies were researched and that these were combined with more general and broader views and studies. The emphasis was however on the broader and more inclusive methodology, as this was more appropriate to deal with the two central problem areas; namely, the general situation with regard to women in leadership and the reason why feminine leadership qualities are often obstructed.

The general methodology will be a discursive and comparative analysis of the available data, studies and reports on this topic. In other words, the methodology will take a qualitative approach and attempt to analyze, synthesize and assess the various…

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