Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Conflict between Gender roles and Leadership roles

One topic that can create heated debates every time it comes up is the differences between the two sexes. One question people have been trying to settle down for centuries is that who is better out of the two sexes. My concern is not who is better. Both are human beings and there is no scale developed to compare human beings on each and every dimension and give a decision which would not be debated?

If we go through the studies on leadership , it is statistically proven that there is a difference between the leadership styles employed by men and women. Women are to a greater degree favor transformational leadership than men. The women using other styles of leadership are not very successful. The main reason is that from the societal theory point of view the way society has evolved and distributed the work to its members has set the stage for non- acceptance of women leadership styles other than transformational. The society has saddled the women with the work of raising a family and being a submissive person in the process. They are assumed to be physically weaker sex, non- confrontational in nature and showing more communal behavior. This is the gender role for women defined by society. When a women tries to break away from that role and tries to create a space and identity for herself she is deterred at each and every point. Not all of these actions are conscious but many occur at unconscious level . The reason is the inherent bias which will remain and nobody can expect it too vanish in thin air . So a women showing agentic leadership behavior is a direct threat to the men and they will try to restrict her progress through any means available to them at that time. The best instrument that is used by men is the old boys network so to say. So , why is transformational leadership helpful? It is just because in this there are no commands necessary. It is a mutual effort , it is more subtle and a non- threatening stance than other leadership styles.

A working women has to put in more effort at whatever she does whether she is at home or at office. She has one territory to protect and other territory to earmark a place for herself. The double standards are used to judge her. It is sometimes like a dead end. She has more to loose in every case. If she slips somewhere at homefront she is judged more severely than a housewife just because she is a working and is blamed for not fulfilling her assigned role ( but who assigned that role in the first place and why is something nobody questions). If she slips in her work it is a sitter for men to prove that women are worthless. If a man networks it is admired and if a women networks she is called names.
One of the classic arguments against women is that " The worst enemy of a women is a women only". But that is also a product of social conditioning. The only resource and power base available to women has been the home. It has been her territory. Any new member in that territory will be opposed and the only new members (outside members) in a family are women that enter a new- household after marriage. It is gain power play at work. No one will give power till the weaker party builds its own power base and shifts the pendulum in their favor. This is as common as the way every new challenger or new member in the power game anywhere is responded to. If in doubt just try to look at the examples in reverse conditions . Many men live with their wife's families. There as well the man is not accepted readily. He also has to gain his position for which the power game is used.

The only possible situation for women to win the situation is to change the criteria of judgment. I admit it is not an easy Job. But we have to accept the fact that there is an inherent bias against women and it is also true that you can never win a game against the person who sets the rules. Then only option left is to change the rules of the game that is what a transformational leader does. You change the criteria according to which decisions are to be taken or how things are to be looked at - Reframe the context. That is the only way available to successfully solve the dilemma of the conflict between gender roles and leadership styles.
Some studies
1. The relationship between
gender role stereotypes and requisite military leadership characteristics -
Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, Oct, 2003
Lisa A. Boyce, Ann M. Herd
2. For women, the glass
ceiling persists - employment discrimination against minority women executives -
Brief Article
3. Gender discrimination and
the workplace: an examination of rational bias theory
Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, Jan, 1998
Susan Trentham, Laurie Larwood

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