Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What do we look for in female leaders?

The moment I emerged from my mother's womb, however, my possibilities dwarfed those of my siblings, for I was a boy! And my brainy, personable, and good-looking siblings were not....So my floor became my sisters' ceiling -- and nobody thought much about ripping up that pattern until a few decades ago. Now, thank heavens, the structural barriers for women are falling.  -- Warren Buffett

I recently read this interesting and thoughtful essay on women and the glass ceiling from Warren Buffett. Every year we see articles about how men still far outnumber women in the boardroom. And every few years a short list women are singled out as the as the ones who've overcome the obstacles and made it to the top. Their every move -- from job performance to child rearing -- is scrutinized so we can see if women can really handle the top corporate jobs. I think they've shown that they can but in many ways female CEOs have been disappointing.

So far, women have seemed to act as surrogate men. There has been little "female energy" in corporations though there are female people heading some of these companies. Where is the change in attitudes that were supposed to come with female leadership? I believe it'll come but it's been slow. So, let me ask this question: when we hire a woman as CEO do we want exactly the same thing as when we hire a man? Do we want them to behave in the same ways and follow the same leadership patterns established by centuries of men? Or, do want a different sensibility or style? I suppose the larger question is really whether women and men are inherently different in leadereship styles.

I don't have an answer -- but maybe you do?

May 14, 2013  |  2 comments  | 

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Posted by Holly Bernstein on Jun 25, 2013 at 4:05 PM
Women can be their own worst enemies in moving up the corporate ladder.
Posted by Akara Khanii on May 18, 2013 at 6:40 PM
As a black male, I think Leadership is gender neutral; as well as neutral to ethnicity. Yes, folks bring native characteristics to leadership roles, but overall, the ability to coach, energize, empower, are some of the traits that are neutral.

If we are looking for something different in terms of Corporate Performance based on gender, then we run the risk of simply stereotyping, like we have done for the mostly white anglo-saxon male to date.
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