The myth, ‘Leaders are born,’ still haunts many. Anthony Smith adds another: “Leadership is not for everyone, nor should it be.” When designated male leaders cannot lead properly, a question naturally sneaks into the public mind: Can women redeem leadership responsibility in corporate entities?
Female Leaders: A Global Scenario
Today, societies everywhere show male superiority in the corporate arena. Although men and women are locked in a symbiotic relationship, societies remain male-dominated and patriarchal indisposition. America that staunchly advocates women’s empowerment still seems conservative in appointing women to senior positions in a big corporate body. According to Kanter, “Women are stuck in the lower echelons of America corporations.” A study in America reveals that 85% of Fortune 500 CEOs are male. Kanter exposes, women often find themselves alone among male colleagues. For example, twenty women are seen in a three-hundred person sales force. The reality that women are not in the workforce is evident in the most gender-egalitarian nations, Sweden; only 4% of the head of boards in corporate organizations are women.
However, the male mindset seems to be altering. Research has shown that women are becoming a significant part of the workforce and the USA is an inspiring example. Meg Whitman is heading Hewlett-Packard, one of the largest PC producers. She has led the company in such a way that HP has attained “sustained profitable growth.” Mary Barra has become the Chairman and CEO of General Motors. Obama adopted a gender-neutral recruitment policy; he recruited a woman to protect his life, and also inducted women in the male-dominated Secret Service and other politically sensitive positions. Across the ocean, in China, 40% of private business entities are owned by women. Furthermore, women are contributing to the country’s GDP by creating industries.
This dynamic is surfacing across the world. In India, a woman named Gorla Rohini has been appointed Chief Justice for the first time in the Delhi High Court. A politically conservative country like Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is adopting a liberal policy about women. For the first time, a woman has been approved to head National Commercial Bank Capital, a top investment bank. Reem Al-Faisal, a Saudi princess, suggests that although there is still a long way to go, women comprise 20% of the Shura Council. We also see progress in our nation. Salima Ahmed has assumed the position of the Vice-chairperson of Nitol-Niloy Group and has been able to employ hundreds of female workers. Ayesha Arefin Tumpa of Bangladesh has invented the mechanism of making artificial lungs. Women have begun to join the security forces since 2001. Many women are being recruited as drivers by private enterprises.
Traits of the Trade: Are Women Naturally Better Leaders?
Traditional roles dictate that women are suitable for jobs like cooking, housekeeping, and nursing. The irony is that males are working in these positions at international hotels and first-rate hospitals. A woman’s economic dependence upon men has allowed men to make the other gender subordinates and marginalize their social status. Men are more egocentric than women and this tendency springs from a sense of superiority of their physical strength.
We must consider the attributes of an efficient leader; these include adaptability, sympathy, empathy, compassion, tolerance, affection, love, hospitality, protectiveness, self-preserving tendency, frugality, innovativeness, forbearance, tenderness, and civility. These qualities are associated and honed by women.
Women everywhere are considered symbols of forbearance; they are noted for three Ps: patience, persuasion, and perseverance. Men being prone to adventures and exploits do not tend to foresee the perils. They focus on one task whereas women excel in rapport-building and morale-raising activities. Studies reveal that women enjoy solving corporate problems in a team, and in doing so, they interact and communicate pleasantly with team members. This quality enables them to harness human resources productively. Women inherently hold a unifying force that fosters cohesion in team members. Their inner urge to survive compels them to work with commitment. That is why Smith states, “Women have all of the tools to be leaders. So do men.” Thus it can be noted that women leaders are relations-oriented whereas male leaders are results-oriented.
Picking at the Brain
Neuro-biologists believe that women’s brain tends to link the left hemisphere with the right brain; the left is associated with logical while the right with an intuition which is related to rational thinking. This the reasons why they perform better in intuitive exercises. A question might arise – “What is intuition?” A plain way to answer is —‘Intuition is thinking without thinking’. Gurian and Annis believe women “have a greater comparative ability to hear words and to transfer what they hear, read”. They are better at multitasking, and they take workplaces as ‘extended part’ of their families. Women’s self-preserving tendency is extended to the corporate body, and they tend to protect the company’s interest. Neuroscientists have discovered male and female brains function in different manners because ‘there is 15 to 20% more blood flow in a woman’s brain and a man’s at any given time.’ This science causes the difference in approaches to paying attention or in completing a task.
The Gender Dynamic
Attributes that women mostly lack are an enterprising or risk-taking spirit, and aggressive mentality. They are flexible, and they cannot easily elicit compliance of male subordinates. They tend to depend on males for critical decisions, and Smith reminds us, ”Leadership is a function of skill and will.” Studies reveal that women have emotional intelligence, but they lack the confidence to lead. Many view women as less prompt, and less accessible. Therefore, a delay is the natural outcome in decision-making. Male supervisors allege, even if women leaders can make critical decisions, they cannot stick to them; assertiveness is lacking in them. Moreover, they cannot lead big companies. At times, women are described as less proactive, inert, introvert for which they cannot perform leadership functions efficiently. They are more reactive which stems from a sense of insecurity and of powerlessness in a male-dominated environment.