The Leadership Double Duty: Being woman, becoming CEO

By Rebekah Peterson

Beyoncé knows “who run the world? Girls!”

Well, if Beyoncé declared it, then why hasn’t the business world caught on yet?

Only 14.2% of the top leadership positions at the companies in the S&P 500 are held by women.

What’s worse? Out of those 500 companies, there are only 24 female CEOs.

The good news? Companies that sustain a high representation of women board members significantly outperform companies with few or no women board members, according to a 2011 Catalyst analysis.


Point: Having women in leadership pays off. Literally.

In fact, there is research that proves women’s leadership is more effective than men’s. In a 2003 analysis of existing research, van Engen, Eagly, and Johannesen-Schmidt found that transformational leadership is the most effective for managing. This type of leadership inspires employees to go beyond the call of duty, foster creative solutions, serve as mentors, and articulate plans for achieving a vision. As shown in the analyses, women exceed men on overall transformational leadership, which leads to more effective styles.

In 2011 those same researchers teamed up with Claartje Vinkenburg to analyze questionnaire responses from 271 men and women participants who had considerable management experience and assessed their beliefs about leadership. They found that people perceive women as having effective leadership.

AKA, women demonstrate effective leadership, get stuff done, and people know it. So, why aren’t they reaching the highest level of management?

Well, in the second part of Vinkenburg et al’s study, they analyzed questionnaire results from 514 men and women participants who had considerable management experience to assess how they believe men or women should lead. They found “inspirational motivation” style, which is when one rallies optimism and excitement about goals or future states, was deemed a less important “should” for women.

Here is where the damage is done: While we don’t look to women for inspirational motivation,  Inspirational motivation is most correlated with promotions to senior level management, especially CEO.

Tricky how that works. Right?

Inspirational motivation was perceived as the most important for a male manager to receive a promotion to senior management. So, if a male manager is seeking a higher level promotion he should adopt this style to increase his chance.

…Women have to do double duty:

The research suggests that women managers who want higher level promotions must combine inspiration motivation and a style called “individualized consideration”—a leadership style that emphasizes developing and mentoring followers and attending to individual needs.


Women must show their leadership style is congruent with senior level management (AKA inspirational), but must also use individualized consideration because this is congruent with female gender roles as caretakers. In other words, women must combine leadership styles that correlate with the most common white male CEO, but also display leadership style that fits the stereotype of female roles to mitigate backlash.

Although reaching the top is not easy for anyone, or fair for women, knowing what leadership styles to combine can help get you that promotion. Be your team and employee’s motivator, while also reaching out as a mentor to them.whorunthe

Now get out there and prove Beyoncé right.

We can run the world… Next stop: CEO

Attention Ladies: Male Mentoring Matters


By Ollie Field

I don’t think it matters how old you are, Legally Blonde is a source of inspiration and female empowerment for generations of women. Elle Woods fearlessly broke through the glass ceiling (an invisible barrier hindering women’s success) from her sorority house to Harvard Law School because, “What? Like it’s hard?” and demonstrated that women can be both feminine and successful. Woods did encounter obstacles, however, such as that creep of a mentor, Professor Callahan.

Speaking of mentors….

Kelli Holmes’s 2013 review of scholarly research defines a mentor as a “high ranking, influential senior organizational member with advanced experience and knowledge, committed to providing upward mobility and support to a protégée’s professional career.” One of the conclusions of her review is that a lack of mentors for women directly contributes to glass ceiling.

Why is there a lack of mentors? Well, Holmes cites a number of reasons.

First, let’s start with the numbers. 2.2% of Fortune-500 CEOs and 1 in 5 senior managers are women. That puts a lot of pressure on just a few women to mentor all of us up-and-coming stars.

But why should the pressure be on those few women? Holmes’ research indicates that mentors choose their protégées based on how they personally identify with them – male CEOs and managers are more likely to have common interests with younger male employees. (It’s called the principle of homophily, we’ve talked about it before.)

To make matters worse, the research also showed that some male mentors are afraid of forming a close relationship with a female protégée, because it could be mistaken as sexual rather than professional. Likewise, female employees are hesitant to seek out male mentors for fear of the same sexual misunderstanding. Apparently, Elle’s touchy experience with Professor Callahan isn’t just a thing for the movies.

Despite the difficulty of finding a mentor, it is so worth it. Holmes found that mentors take on two very important functions; they provide career guidance, such as sponsorship and coaching, and provide psychological support by being there as a counselor and friend.

In fact, Forret and Dougherty conducted a survey study in 2004 and found a positive correlation between having a mentor, compensation, and rate of promotion. This was especially true among women with male mentors compared to males with male mentors and females with female mentors.

…Is this saying that you should only go find yourself a male mentor to be successful? Of course not. Instead, it emphasizes the number of men in high-level positions, with more professional influence and a greater tendency to take on a mentor role.

So for you ladies in power positions:

Whether you’re a CEO or simply a member of a local club, know that your power and authority comes with responsibility. Remember that other women are looking for guidance, and even if it isn’t apparent, they see you as a leader. Offer your words of wisdom or go as far as to offer yourself as a mentor.

And for those of you who need some guidance in your life… Follow these three steps suggested by Forbes to find a mentor:

  1. Ask yourself what you want in a mentor.
  2. Check out your employer’s human resources department to see if they have a mentorship program.
  3. Look outside of the office, too. A mentor doesn’t have to be limited to a “business” relationship.

And finally, don’t forget what Elle said…


Talk Like Me

By Rachel Garretson

You know all those self-help books proclaiming revolutionary, catch-all formulas for success in this male dominated business world? Right after that chapter that tells you how you should stand and sit, they always tell you to learn their language.

Well…. Not to give those self-help books too much credit, but there is some scientific evidence supporting this although it’s not so straightforward. It turns out that there are different styles of language but while it’s true that many women grow up learning a more tentative style of speech, not all women do!


Powerless speech (typically thought of as female) is characterized by things like hesitations (“well,” “like” or “um”), tag questions (“right?” or “don’t you think?”), and disclaimers (I’m not sure, but…”). Powerful speech does not include these characteristics.

Of course, rules are made to be broken! Many men use powerless language, just as many women use powerful speech. I mean come on; do you think Daenerys’s language could ever be considered tentative?

Even so, many studies like this one by Rob Thomson, Tamar Murachver, and James Green demonstrate that in addition to gender, things like situation influence the speech pattern you take. They learned this by having participants talk online with a “friend” (experimenters) who used either powerful or powerless speech styles. They found that participants often adapted their speech styles to mimic the one being used by their friend. The speech styles of those around you, power dynamics within a group, and even the topic of your conversation can influence the speech styles you adopt!

Unfortunately, in our individualistic society, which values standing out, powerful language is touted as the best and those self-help books we mentioned are constantly telling women they need to use powerful language or they won’t get ahead. This is not the always the case!

Each style has benefits. Alison Fragale had participants complete tasks online with a “partner” (really a scripted computer program) then they were asked to make judgments and confer status to their partner. In groups that didn’t need to cooperate as much, individuals with powerful speech were indeed considered more competent and intelligent. In groups where cooperation was key, however, this pattern reverses! Powerless speech, which emphasizes relationship building and consensus, was considered the better speech pattern!


Thus neither style is more appropriate for a certain gender or even better over all, merely better in certain situations. We don’t need to avoid powerless speech, we need to become more aware of which style we’re using and which would be best in this situation.

Guess your mom was right after all when she always told you to think about what you say before you say it!