As a marketing and communication professional, I am interested in the issues of leadership and communication created by women. In my professional work, I’ve faced problems and conflicts which arose from the differences between male and female colleagues because of their communication style or working behavior. The 20th century saw such landmark changes as women having the right to vote, study, and work. Women became formally equal with males. Some analysts believe that in the 21st century, the world’s development will depend on the women who actively form and influence their surroundings.
Coca-Cola chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent gave a lecture at Yale University entitled “Women are the key to global economic growth.” Unfortunately, only 15 of the Fortune 500 companies are lead by women, while 33 percent of non-profit organizations in the U.S. have female leaders. While this statistic might imply that the not-for-profit sector is softer than the profit-oriented companies and traditional “caring” industries like education and health care provide a better field for women leaders, could it be that women have the same rights and voice but only in some specific, more women-oriented areas?
There are still differences between men and women in other areas of work. Male employees receive a higher salary than the women. It takes a longer time for a female manager to move up in her career path, while a male is promoted faster. Should we cancel these differences between the sexes using regulations and laws, or we should just allow the changes to happen naturally?
Women leaders face a so-called double discrimination. If a woman should happen to break the “glass ceiling,” they then face the “glass cliff” –a metaphor describing a scenario where the female leader stands on a stage and the audience is more critical than they would be if it was a man. According to behavioral theories, stereotypical gender roles are manifested in either agentic or communal behavior (McTavish & Miller 2006, p. 6). The characteristics of men with agentic behavior are: assertiveness, control, confidence, aggressiveness, dominance, and competitiveness. Communal behavior is more female, representing kindness, sympathy, supportiveness, sensitivity, and helpfulness. In organizational cultures, the agentic behavior is valued.
According to the transformational and transactional leadership theories, women represent the transformational leadership style, while men are more transactional. The transformational leadership style is characterized by behaviors like power-sharing, energizing, mutual trust, and respect. The transactional leader, on the other hand, means the leader takes a position of power and authority (McTavish & Miller, 2006, p. 13). This description of transformational women leaders is very similar to the servant leadership theory. In one of my BGU classes, most of the students agreed that women are better in some aspects of servanthood: they are more loving, caring, humble, and better listeners, which are all required characteristics of servant leader.
Christ taught about women and their roles in church and society. A great book written by Salvation Army officer Danielle Strickland is The Liberating Truth: How Jesus Empowers Women. According to this powerful female leader, the role of women in church is fully misinterpreted and misunderstood. Most church leaders assume that female ministry workers are subordinates who need to stay in the background serving among the children, the elderly, and the poor. Most women are not ready to step into positions of more authority even if they are encouraged or asked to do so. In my own congregation, 70-80 percent of those who serve are women. When the pastor asked some women to become elders, only two were able to accept such a leadership postion compared to seven male elders. Strickland searches for the reason behind this phenomenon. She goes back to the roots, to the Creation when God created the woman to make the earth whole. Jesus was surrounded by women who supported Him in the first row: Women were the ones staying with Him at the cross; women recognized His resurrection and empty tomb; and the first disciple was a woman who shared the Good News with the people.
In order to develop the leadership skills of women, organizations must begin to allow them to speak and be heard. They need to be and supported by providing training, coaching, and raising the awareness about diversity. “This is not a battle of sexes – this is a battle for preserving and enhancing the world’s economic, environmental and social fabric” (Kent, 2011). Susan Faludi describes so simply: “I am women, hear me whisper.” Please help us to get heard.
Krisztina is a marketing and communication professional with 10+ years experience in business and non-profit areas. Currently, she is a Doctor of Transformational Leadership student at BGU and she serves as the Social Media Director of the university. Krisztina edits the bimonthly BGU newsletter, she creates social media posts on Facebook and Linkedin, and updates the website with news. Her research interest is in ethical leadership in the post-communist Central-European business context. Krisztina lives in Budapest, Hungary.
Kent, M. (2010). Coca-Cola World Fund at Yale Lecture. New Haven, CT, October 4, 2010. http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/dynamic/leadershipviewpoints/2010/10/women-key-to-global-economic-growth-kent-tells-yale-students.html
McTavish D. & Miller, K. (2006) Women in leadership and management. Edward Elgar, UK
Richer, M. H. (1994). Susan Faludi and Molly Ivins: A feminist critique. North Dakota Journal of Speech and Theatre. Vol. 7, Nr. 1, p. 57-71.