Leadership plays a significant role in determining the direction and pace at which a group, society, region, or country moves towards its set goals. The everyday activities and the patterns of political, social, and economic development are inclined to employ leadership styles that are prevalent in every possible situation. The world’s current standards of development are attributed to fair, or even good, leadership styles that most leaders have been adopting in their areas of jurisdiction. However, according to global observations, women’s representation in leadership continues to diminish even as more and more leadership positions are being created, following the ever growing global population. This is quite unfortunate given the fact that biologically women as opposed to men possess a considerable degree of emotional intelligence, a component necessary for provision of visionary leadership in any given human composition. It should be alleged that the conspicuous shortfall of women in key leadership position has deprived the world of the far-sighted leadership which could have raised this world to a far better level. It is ridiculous to see the world grappling with political and socio-economic challenges every day due to poor leadership, while the society harbors a bank of leaders in form of women who could have made a significant difference should they get opportunity to catch the reins of power. Seeking to unravel the riddle that engulfs female underrepresentation in leadership roles, this essay critically examines the barriers to women’s leadership with special reference to Tampa Bay, Florida, where the advocacy for women’s leadership has been on the increase. In addition, the paper highlights the required strategies that should be formulated to attain women empowerment and advancement.
BARRIERS TO WOMEN
The role of female leaders is still undermined in most of the American communities because most people have little or no knowledge about the neurobiological aspects of women. The cultural perception of women is still programmed and intensely wired in their minds such that the education and increased civilization cannot induce any change. Many people in corporate sector, especially in Tampa Bay, still misconstrue women’s attributes of modesty in communication and decision-making as well as their focus of leadership as insufficient to guarantee one a leadership position (Grown, Rao & Kes 2005). They still regard leaders from the chauvinistic point of view where they should be aggressive, rough, sometimes even violent, and abusive in the way that some men portray themselves when they vie for leadership positions. What men forget is that women’s nature of humility and mild approach to situations is not a weakness but rather a virtue which should be honored (Adams 2007). There is no time when women are supposed to behave like men for them to be valued and granted leadership. More so, such a scenario would be tantamount to outright violation of feministic nature of women which is still unwelcome.
Besides, many women lack resilience, especially after the unfair treatment at their places of work. Usually, women hide their authenticity while in the work environment: this is a situation that men often want to trample for their own selfish gains. This attitude normally shuts many women, who may possess relevant qualifications for the available jobs, to prefer remaining in their current positions or quit jobs all together and begin their own businesses (Ely, Ibarra & Kolb 2011). It is also noticed that men have never taken women seriously despite the sense that they bring on board over a certain matter. This kind of attitude is what most women attribute to bullying and which they cling on to justify their declination to claim certain leadership positions. It engraves in their mind the negative attitude towards men owing to their view of leadership, especially if it comes from women. Men vehemently oppose female ideologies not because they may be erroneous or fallacious but because they come from a woman; and owing only to that fact, they dismiss them. Men in most American communities are still dominated by cultural notions where women have never been considered to generate any sensible idea but rather viewed as people who permanently depend on men for thought and decisions (O’Connor 2010).
In addition, most women decline leadership positions even if they may have abundant qualifications or when the positions are available. This is because women usually juggle between their careers and their culturally defined roles in their respective families; such a situation often overwhelms them. More often than not, these priorities settle, and they find themselves more inclined on the family side than the job side. Naturally, women are known to be caregivers to their families as compared to the way men view the role of parenthood. For instance, more men than women would be willing to work extra hours even if the reimbursement for it were not very good.
Furthermore, women are never comfortable taking or being assigned demanding responsibilities at their work places such as going on a work trip for days or being in charge of a hectic project. These kinds of selectiveness is what normally gives men an upper hand over women because in case considerations for promotion are made, such cases as overtime responsibilities are always factored into it. Because of the fear for demanding tasks, most women find themselves selecting careers that they deem less demanding such as secretaries, receptionists, and teachers among other; therefore, they leave tough careers for men (de la Rey 2005). This makes men a dominating majority in the fields that are demanding in terms of time and strength. The study conducted in Tampa Bay presented an inconsiderable number of women occupying leadership positions in significant careers such as engineering and medicine among others. What women forget is that every ambition comes at a cost. The lower the ambition, the lower is the cost, and vice versa. Many men toil a lot, and consequently, they acquire requisite qualifications and experience which guarantees them leadership in respective careers.
Besides, the contemporary society is still perpetuating the erroneous practice of marginalizing women by suppressing them, segregating, and aligning them more on the side of family that on the side of career. For instance, when a woman enters the family way, managers would deem her to be insufficient and therefore unfit to continue holding a certain position, and in most cases, advocacy for her dismissal or demotion would be made. Bosses have never been happy with the idea of women at work seeking maternity leaves. For them, it is tantamount to a serious inconvenience to the job. The time spent by women in prenatal and postnatal care is usually detrimental to their positions and their experience at work; besides, they need to take an active part in the upbringing of the newborn child throughout their lives. This condition usually allows to capitalize on amassing credible knowledge and experience that normally makes them better placed in assuming leadership in many careers and occupations (Diamond 2015).
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Finally, there is an acute lack of personal accountability on the part of women. Most women fail to find efficacy in themselves and in fellow women who hold various positions. The majority of women still possess the mentality that leadership is a reserve for men; therefore, they would not courageously compete for it even if there were a chance and they possessed the requisite qualities for it. In Tampa Bay, for example, women have widely been accused of holding themselves from leadership, and they realize their fault when it is far too late, that is men have already stabilized themselves in various leadership positions. They lack the courage to advocate for change. Moreover, women who are already in leadership roles are also to blame for they have neither shown any willingness nor initiated programs that could empower fellow women to rise in ranks. The majority of them are the ones who become an impediment for others to rise. Similarly, reports have also indicated a high degree of sadism among women towards their fellow women in power as compared to the attitude of men towards fellow men in power. Most women are said to prefer men for higher leadership position than their fellow women. That is why during elections, women would shamelessly rally to support men at the expense of their fellow women. Surprisingly, after the elections, they will be heard agitating against the same men that they unanimously elected into the office.
Despite that, the existence of cultural schemas also makes a significant contribution in inhibiting women from rising to leadership positions. Certain schemas are crucial because they are biased against the occupational abilities of women and can also exert negative impact on the perception of women about their professional capabilities. For example, it is widely believed that men are better than women at subjects such as Math and Science. Nonetheless, no difference allied to gender that exists in Mathematics has ever been demonstrated to be attributed to cultural factors, apart from differences in natural abilities. More so, another cultural schema is the fallacy that men have a natural disposition to becoming managers as oppose to women; however, there is no credible evidence to support this claim. Instead, women are proven to possess greater emotional intelligence than men; it is a factor that makes them have an equal capability to be leaders because leadership qualities are more ingrained in one’s personality than one’s gender.
Furthermore, the usual educational disparities play a key role in determining those who deserve leadership in any fraternity. Many women lack requisite qualifications to highly competitive careers, for instance, those that demand Mathematics and Sciences as entry subjects. Therefore, they would rather select art subject careers which eventually lead them to lower prospects in employment. Consequently, it becomes a big issue for them to rise in ranks to the top cadres because competent men have occupied numerous positions in higher ranks and are also striving to rise further. This situation often discourages women from making any further efforts; instead, they simply remain complacent and hope for favors from men.
At the same time, the varying job searches between men and women make a big difference in positions that women can occupy from those occupied by men. According to sociological research regarding Tampa Bay, women often adopt different strategies in their job searches, which, in turn, work against them in pursuing leadership positions. These conflicting strategies are partly influenced by power relations in the household chores, the domestic responsibilities of women, and gendered nature of social life. Such factors to a large degree lead to women’s considering the remunerable employment based on the geographical proximity to their residences unlike men who would travel a lot in search of jobs regardless of the distance from their homes. In the long run, women will tend to have narrower networks as compared to men.
Relevant Strategies For Women’s Empowerment and Advancement
Although the barriers to women’s leadership are very inflexible and extensive, there is still an optimistic expectation that there will be time when the ratio of women in leadership will be higher than that of men (Alsop & Heinsohn 2005). These sentiments will only be proven if the strategies mentioned below are wholly and properly enforced. First, the society should instigate and sustain multicultural diversity and training for both women and men in order to eliminate the male chauvinistic syndrome (Moghadam & Senftova 2005). This will enable all genders to embrace the existing differences and promote the understanding of the benefits that are coupled with gender diversity, reinforce the bond between men and women, and cultivate a healthy competition between them.
Moreover, women should accept the challenge and begin rising to the occasion by being who they really are. They should manifest their authenticity and transparencies at their places of work and let men begin taking them serious. Moreover, women, especially those at the workplaces, should also eliminate the victim mentality, that is when they perceive themselves as weaker sex when it comes to making some crucial contribution (Ecklund 2006). This is what has made men perpetually imagine that women cannot provide decisive leadership when granted those positions. More importantly, women should shun the habit of believing that their positions in leadership have been taken by men; instead, they should make effort to face these men with confidence in a fair contest. This kind of boldness is what will make men surrender some positions because they will have been convinced by the leadership qualities displayed by women vying for particular positions (Alexander & Welzel 2011).
Similarly, all women should begin altering their attitude towards their fellow women, especially during the time of elections. Women leaders should take advantage of the huge number of women, both at work and on a martial support, to vote for them. The fact that the majority of women do not vote for fellow women is an indication that they may not have seen in female contestants what is generally required from a leader. However, the proper popularization of manifestoes and spearheading of civic education on roles of women in leadership can help people go on elections with informed choices. By means of civic education, men who usually use dubious means to gain entry into elective positions would automatically be eliminated because the electorate will be well-informed about the qualities of good leaders (Eyben & Napier-Moore 2009).
Another strategy should be enforced through the proper legislation. The government can devise a way of allotting slots of leadership positions as a reserve for women. This will ensure active participation of women in leadership since they will be obliged to vie for positions reserved for them (Brigden 2013). Alternatively, certain key positions, such as presidency, should allow for gender alternation after each term. This implies that in case the previous office-holder was a male president, the following president should be a female representative. It will then reduce male dominance in leadership and foster equal representation of both genders. If the strategy is implemented effectively, it will also provide a lasting solution to perpetual agitation about gender inequality that often irritates women who feel underrepresented in leadership.
Apart from that, the government in conjunction with educational department should emphasize gender equality through educational curriculum. Children should begin embracing each gender right from the elementary levels so that by the time they become eligible voters, they would be conversant with all that entails leadership. This approach will definitely eliminate the situation when elections are conducted amid heated gender prejudice and primitive sadism since women have equally immense leadership qualities that can change this world and make it a better place for all (Klapper & Parker 2011).
Moreover, education should go a long way in helping eradicate gender discrimination, especially when recruiting people for jobs; recruiters should not attribute aptitude to gender but rather to an individual’s level of diligence. Women must also shun the tendencies of being inclined to choose particular subjects, especially arts, with the belief that they are meant to be for women because they are easier, thus leaving hard subjects for men. Elimination of these barriers will see women accepting challenging tasks in the same proportion as men, and this is what will guarantee them equal representation when it comes to allotment of leadership responsibilities.
Finally, men and particularly those in leadership must understand and respect women’s natural neurobiological and cultural roles (Razavi 2007). For instance, it is natural that women, at some point, should be taking care of their families. The fact that men would never experience this condition should not make them take advantage of the situation to their own convenience and gain leadership positions over women. Structures should be put in place to ensure that leadership chances of those women who go on maternity leaves are reserved until they return (Folbre 2006). This is also a way of respecting the rule of nature, which no one has the power to control. Although women are also natural caregivers and more inclined to family than work, proper organization can be made such that there would a balance between the time spent at work as well as time spent at home. All individuals, whether men or women, need time for themselves and their loved ones. It should not be assumed that only women require time to attend to children; even men have the parental roles to play. Therefore, women are not supposed to be denied chances of leadership based on this premise.
Leadership should be a collective responsibility between male and female representatives because each gender is exceptional in the manner in which it makes contribution to the society. Men should stop believing that leadership was initially reserved for men alone and women have no say at all. The underrepresentation of women in the current leadership positions is an indication that the world does not fully realize that women have immense emotional intelligence which scientifically is very essential in proving proper leadership. This explains why in the history of world leadership no one has heard of a female leader who led a tyranny reign or propagated corruption and ruined the economy of her country. The striking fact is that few women leaders who are holding powerful positions have all portrayed a good example worthy of emulation by all other leaders. This is just an indication that women can actually be entrusted with leadership. Time has come for men to also admit that women are equally competent and can make good leaders. The act of employing erroneous means to gain access to power, which has been the trend for many powerful men, should be eradicated. This can be done through proper legislation where laws are enacted to provide a fair framework that would not favor such kinds of flaws. The world should stop rewarding bad people with leadership on grounds that they are wealthy but rather reward decent people who follow their personalities and the traits that they possess. Women, on their part, should also exhibit to the world that they actually possess the requisite qualities to be granted leadership positions.