“Women aren’t authoritative.” “A commanding voice is a masculine one.” “Women are too dainty to lead.” We get it. You think it takes a certain type of a person to be a leader, and that type of person is usually a man. Thankfully, when it comes to the success of a company, what you think doesn’t matter; what actually matters are performance and results.
With that in mind, it’s high time that we face the truth that women can produce as well as men. Don’t believe me? Well, maybe you’ll believe British sociolinguist Judith Baxter, who published a study on the leadership abilities of males and females. Baxter wanted to find out if different, gender-specific language characteristics affected an individual’s ability to become a leader, and how well people respond to them as such.
Using groups of all male, all female, and mixed gender participants, she was able to see who stepped up to the plate and hit a home run. Her findings—women were just as likely to exhibit leadership qualities and deliver respectable results. While women did communicate differently, they weren’t any less likely to take command or any less effective in command.
So why aren’t we seeing more balance in top-level professional positions?
There are many explanations for the scarcity of women leaders. One especially was noted in this study; Baxter found that the all-female group did not allow for a leader to emerge, and reacted negatively to one woman trying to take control of the group.
I know what you’re thinking: Here we go again with cattiness and women tearing each other down.
Not so fast, though—this article pointed out a more probable explanation; Baxter noted that the all female group seemed to value a group where everyone was equal. This approach allowed for a more diverse set of ideas to emerge. Nice job, ladies!
However, it is important to remember that there is also value in having a leader. The downside of this diversity enhancing collaborative approach was that no single idea gained significant focus. Kinda like when you spend 20 minutes driving around town with your friends trying to decide where to eat before Natalie finally caves and (in a truly hangry manner) screams, “Screw it! Let’s just get McDonald’s!”
Sometimes, having a leader just makes final decisions easier.
So, what can we learn from these findings?
Allowing a single individual (or a small group of individuals) to have power over a group or organization is important for productivity. But, ensuring that these individuals can do a good job is just as important (let’s be real, McDonald’s was not the best choice, Natalie).
What isn’t important is that every leader fit the same mold. Masculine and feminine styles differ, but these differences do not mean one is better than another. So let’s end the illusion that there’s one right way to get things done, because thinking that way is how one social group gets an unfair advantage. There is a time and place for all of these styles, so let’s all acknowledge strong women leaders for what they are. Let’s get more ladies in top-level professional positions and watch them thrive with their male peers.
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