When collaboration becomes overkill: How collaboration can kill your career

By Erika Harrington

“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.

mulanclimbingUsing 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.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to comment. We love to hear what you have to say, and as always, thanks for reading The InformHer.

The girl power hour

By Eliana Huffman

Beyonce. Angela Merkel. Emma Watson. Michelle Obama.

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We are hashtag #blessed to live in an era graced by so many influential women. They serve as role models, mentors, and further— in a professional context—allies.

According to a recent analysis of 5,679 workplaces located in Texas, more women in charge within an organization leads to increased gender-integration across all employees, regardless of status. This means that for every position within an organization, women and men are given equal opportunities to obtain said position, as well as opportunities to be promoted from it. This gender-integration also includes more equal pay for equal work.

But what does this mean overall? For one, it means that women are agents of change. Climbing up the corporate ladder is already challenging for most, and near impossible for some, especially women. However, this study goes to show that a little girl power goes a long way.

It’s easy to see other women as competition, in more ways than one. We live in a world that’s overly conducive to tearing each other down, and in fact encourages it (thinking of mainstream media examples here, like Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” music video, or the movie Mean Girls).

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In a professional setting, this behavior doesn’t always stop. According to a recent study done at Bentley University, over 50% of respondents said that women-specific networking programs would be beneficial [to women as a whole], and yet only 17% of people who sit on corporate boards in the United States are women.

Houston, we have a problem.

What can we as individuals do to fix this? Well, for starters, include women in your professional network. Seriously. Whether you’re a college student seeking a mentor, or you’re a tenured careerist wanting to pay your wisdom forward, have at it.

This goes for men too—serving as an ally not only makes you feel good, but actually pushes your own career forward. In the words of Meghan Casserly, Forbes magazine, “women are meeting, sharing and connecting in ways that men often shy away from. The result is lasting relationships that are the building blocks of future job placements, sales leads and partnerships.”

Now that’s more like it.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to comment. We love to hear what you have to say, and as always, thanks for reading The InformHer.