In the last few decades the concept of leadership has changed a lot, it can even be argued that it has changed radically. A century and a half ago, it was impossible to imagine that a woman could become a political leader, the “one who leads”. A hundred years ago, women leaders began to emerge, however such cases were so rare that this phenomenon was perceived as an exceptional one. Even some fifty years ago, the idea of equality between men and women (including the right to leadership) was mostly met with skepticism.
If you think that this is an exaggeration and half a century ago everything was almost as it is now, then I will simply remind you that in Switzerland (a Western European country!) women did not have the right to vote until 1971.
Nevertheless, the world is changing, and faster. Role models, including leadership models, are also undergoing transformations. Gradually, authority of older people (“listen to me, because I’m older” is no longer an argument), authority of men (“I'm a man, therefore, I know/can do better” doesn't work anymore either), authority of officials (it’s no longer enough just “being the boss” to have influence – many people do not agree to blindly follow instructions of management) recedes into the background. Leadership in the modern sense is not about position or status. It is about the influence, which a leader has on his environment due to personal and professional qualities.
More and more women are becoming active in public and political life and are demonstrating models of effective leadership based on their own examples.
ABOUT GENDER STEREOTYPES
Women are becoming leaders in all spheres – politics, business, social activities. This process takes some time. There are still not many women in high management positions in Ukraine – just look at the top management of large companies or the top management of the state, though from year to year one can see positive dynamics.
Gender distribution of roles and functions, which is customary for a patriarchal society, is losing ground. And what about that gender distribution? Gender is a social sex. In traditional societies, there are usually only two genders (although there are many more actually), which are tied to a biological sex. There are certain ideas about what a man should be and what a woman should be like and what social roles they should fulfill.
The important point is that only a few roles are actually BIOLOGICALLY determined: genetic mother/father, genetic daughter/son, blood relative, pregnant woman, nursing mother. Everything else is a socio-cultural construct. There is no biological basis for such functions as cooking, cleaning, caring for children, earning money, fixing plumbing, etc. That is, both men and women can do this and everything else.
However, gender division of labor is characteristic of a classical patriarchal society. A woman fulfills the social role of an educator, a housewife, a guardian, a man – protector, head of a family, the one who provides the whole family financially. There is also a prevailing notion that women are emotional, illogical, superficial, etc., while men are aggressive, independent, seek to dominate, etc. These are gender stereotypes – generalized traditional ideas about what men and women are like, what they should do, and what they should never do.
That is, a man is primarily evaluated by his professional achievements, and a woman by her family status.
Closely related to gender stereotypes and the distribution of social roles is sexism – prejudice against people because of their sex or gender, discrimination and underestimation based on gender. Sexists judge people in a stereotypical manner, evaluate them according to the ideas about men and women described above. The consequence of sexism is gender inequality in various manifestations, especially in labor relations (difference in pay, glass ceiling).
Women still receive lower wages in a number of positions. It often happens that a man in a certain position is paid more than a woman in a similar position.
The term glass ceiling refers to an invisible and formally undefined barrier that limits career advancement of women, regardless of their professional qualities. There seem to be no specific restrictions, but a woman cannot move forward in her career. There is another concept: the sticky floor – this is what they call the low level of wages, which also practically leaves no chance for moving forward, since development also requires funds (for example, for training).
WHY IS FEMALE LEADERSHIP IMPORTANT?
In Ukrainian society, women work on an equal footing with men. In some areas, there are noticeably more women, such as, for example, in medicine and health care, education, social work, humanitarian sciences. At the same time, as already mentioned, in the middle and higher levels of management, their number decreases proportionally – the higher management level, the fewer women are there. However, female leadership is very important for establishing a social dialogue.
Female leadership is characterized by the humanization of social relations and the prevalence of peaceful methods of conflict resolution. This is necessary in Ukraine now, because we are living in a time of war, we have a long recovery period ahead of us – thus, the number of conflicts we are going to deal with is simply huge. The potential of women’s leadership must be attracted, and so we have to support women leaders from various fields of activity today.
Women’s participation in decision-making processes is also important because it makes them visible, provides them with an opportunity to voice issues and defend their interests. When a certain community or stratum does not have its visible representatives, their issues are ignored. Women leaders are generally able to more competently represent and defend women in various issues.
How to support them? To provide access to educational opportunities, to provide new knowledge, to assist in obtaining management positions in government institutions and public organizations. Women should be much more involved in decision-making processes at all levels. This is the only possible way to build a healthy, harmonious, sustainable society of the future.
Illustration: LinkedIn Sales Solutions, Unsplash open source