Leadership and Female Discrimination

Leadership and Female Discrimination
Alejandro Sanfeliciano

Written and verified by the psychologist Alejandro Sanfeliciano.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Many people think that unequal rights between genders is a thing of the past, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. We still live in a society that favors men to the detriment of women. Despite the advances made by the feminist movement, machismo still exists. In this article, we’re going to specifically talk about leadership and the female discrimination that surrounds it.

One of the most notable proofs of the existence of machismo that’s rooted deep in our society is the lack of women in leadership positions. Traditionally, society has always treated leadership as a male thing. Although we’re increasingly becoming used to seeing women in positions of responsibility, the proportion of female leaders is still very small.

Differences between men and women regarding leadership

In the last decades, researchers have carried out different studies to try to discover the relationship between leadership and female discrimination. One of the earliest hypotheses that we’ve explored is whether there are differences between men and women in leadership. In particular, whether these were the cause of the scarce amount of women in power positions.

Women face a disadvantage because of the links between leadership and female discrimination.

Eagly and Johnson conducted a meta-analysis in 1990 of 162 studies on leadership. They analyzed the different behaviors of men and women in power positions. The results showed that there were gender differences in the leaders’ behavior.

Men tend to be more authoritarian, aggressive, and very task-oriented. However, women lead with a more democratic, participatory style, oriented towards healthy relationships. Both styles are closely associated with the gender stereotypes that exist in today’s society.

Leadership studies show us that democratic, participative, and relationship-oriented leaders are more effective than those who aren’t. So, how is it possible that women, who have ‘good leader’ traits, don’t hold that many power positions?

The effects of leadership and female discrimination

Next, we’ll talk about two effects that arise due to machismo and that hinder women’s access to leadership positions. It’s important to understand that although there is no explicit gender inequality, the implicit machismo in our society has an equally harmful effect on women in general.

The effect of the glass ceiling

The term ‘glass ceiling’ refers to the existence of an invisible barrier that prevents women from reaching managerial or leadership positions. The influence of gender stereotypes is the reason behind this barrier.

Don’t forget that leadership isn’t just about an individual because it requires followers. Due to the prejudices that surround women, we find that followers reject their legitimacy as leaders. Furthermore, there’s a strong tendency to associate power positions with the male gender. Author Virginia E. Schein coined the term ‘think manager-think male’ in reference to this phenomenon.

On the other hand, the glass ceiling leads to the cement roof. The cement roof refers to those situations where women limit themselves from reaching power positions. Similarly, this also happens due to the implicit machismo in gender stereotypes, which makes women believe they must do what society expects of them.

In our society, there are links between leadership and female discrimination.

The effect of the glass cliff

We’ve already mentioned that it’s hard for women to reach power positions. Namely, we’ve shown that there’s a clear relationship between leadership and female discrimination. But what happens when a woman reaches a leadership position? This is where the glass cliff manifests.

The glass cliff refers to the fact that, when women reach leadership positions, they tend to be uncertain ones. Also, these positions have a higher risk of failure and are prone to criticism. It seems that ‘think manager-think male’ stops having an effect when the leadership position deals with riskier things.

Therefore, when companies need to fill power positions with greater risks of failure, they usually look for a woman. As a result, we come across the phenomenon ‘think crisis-think female’. The main hypotheses that try to explain it are those that state that women have a greater ability to manage crises.

In conclusion, it’s important to realize that gender inequality still exists in our society. There are some ways we can fight it, such as by researching and being critically aware of all the social, cultural, and educational aspects that foster a relationship between leadership and female discrimination.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.