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Challenges Women Face in Leadership

Essay by   •  March 11, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  3,244 Words (13 Pages)  •  3,000 Views

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Abstract

Women and leadership is a dynamic topic that encompasses many meanings. Women and leadership is a fascinating combination that is still being defined. Over the past, women have catapulted into many leadership roles. For some, women have become CEOs of companies and holding top positions in government agencies and institutional sectors.

Women continue to aspire to leadership positions in all aspects of the world. However, the journey has not been easy, but women have continued to fight their way to the top and prove they have the leadership skills necessary to hold top level positions.

Some people hold the belief that men make better leaders than women and others do not. Women have had an extremely hard time breaking down barriers and proving they have the capability to lead just as well as men. The purpose of this paper is to explore the challenges women have encountered as becoming leaders. Included in this paper are the history of women in leadership positions, barriers related to culture and cultural expectations for women becoming leaders, misconceptions and stereotyping of women and the educational opportunities.

Table of Contents

Introduction

History of Women in Leadership Positions

Leadership and the Concepts

Barriers and Challenges in Leadership for Women

Stereotyping and Misconceptions

Women Activism

Educational Opportunities

Conclusion

Introduction

Many women who have pursued leadership positions in higher education and other fields of work have experienced many challenges during their pursuits. Aladejana (2005), women still face many challenges in leadership positions, including culture and social barriers, along with stress and stereotyping in leadership positions, which is experienced different than with men in leadership positions. Women's participation in the workforce has increased steadily since the 1950's. According to a 2008 research from the Department of Labor, women make up 46.8 percent of the total U.S. work force.

The journey for women has not been easy and is not an easy task, but women have continued to fight their way to the top and prove they have the leadership skills necessary to hold top level positions, despite the struggles of freedom. Some people continue to hold their belief that men make better leaders than women. However, some people think otherwise. Women have had an extremely hard time breaking down barriers and proving they have the capability to lead just as well as men. Therefore, according to Aladejana (2005), women still face many challenges in leadership positions, including culture and social barriers, along with stress and stereotyping in leadership positions, which is experienced different than with men in leadership positions.

History of Women Leadership Roles

History has shaped women's roles in employment and government. According to a 2002 research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 1950 and 2000, the segment of women in the workforce rose from 34 to 60 percent.

Women hold roles of leadership across a range of professional fields. Some are equal to or greater than men. Some hold leadership roles in the field of education, nursing and in the nonprofit and social service sector. However, women leaders remain the exception in most high revenue industries, such as engineering, technology and resource extraction. As of 2010, only 15 of the Fortune 500 companies were run by women, and only 28 Fortune 1,000 companies employ women in senior level positions.

Barriers and Challenges in Leadership for Women

For many women, learning to operate and succeed in a world dominated by men means having to learn to override or ignore feminine inclinations. It is natural for many women to want to nurture relationships, to focus on the person and emotions involved, rather than the issues and tasks. Women have been known to be compassionate and sometimes try to avoid conflict in certain situations.

Various factors are at work in limiting women's potential to aspire to leadership positions. Sadie (2005) advanced the argument that at the bottom of the constraints that women face is the patriarchal system where decision making powers are in the hands of males.

Despite women's education and entry into the job market, the woman's role is typically one of a homemaker. The man is the bread winner, head of household and has a right to public life (Sadie, 2005). Confining women's identity to the domestic sphere is one of the barriers to women's entry into politics.

Some women have been able to transcend cultural barriers and rise to positions of leadership. However, women had to juggle cultural expectations with their leadership roles.

It has been argued that women are often reluctant to uphold leadership positions and this is partly attributed to cultural prohibitions on women.

Professional women in managerial positions face many challenges and those in institutions of higher education learning are no exception. Moola (2004) noted that the socialization of women at work occurs within a system of power and inequality and this tend to reproduce various forms of inequality.

In many institutions women's attainment of leadership positions has been facilitated by the implementation of employment equity policies and affirmative action. Leadership for women is not an easy task. As observed by Moola (2004), moving up and staying at the top is not necessarily a job filled with excitement and joy.

Female faculty members perceive that there are other institutional and departmental barriers to overcome. Sandler (1992) contended that there is a hypothesis that the existing structure of the university is the "right" one, so the need for change is not present. Johnsrud and Des Jarlais (1994) echoed this thining: "The undergirding assumption of this view is that the academy is a given, as are its norms and expectations, and it is women who must learn how to cope and succeed in the prevailing system" (p. 338). Such a structure is based on male career patterns only and those of women are not taken into consideration. Yet, new female

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