7: The Importance of Women in Leadership

April 21, 2024 | Akshaya Aalla

Women all across the globe have had to overcome systematic discrimination and barriers that blocked their access to influence and impact their community. Yet, the suffragette movement sparked the fight for women’s rights, and as an extension, opportunities for women in leadership roles.

At the start of the 1990s, when women were regularly entering the workforce, it was expected that they would slot into the structure of work culture designed for males. Additionally, employers expected women to style themselves with stereotypical masculine behavior if they were to aspire for higher positions – a belief that is still prevalent in some job fields. 

However, it is important to note that women bring their own strengths to the workplace, including empathy, emotional intelligence and diverse perspectives. According to a 1992 meta-analysis of 61 studies led by Alice Eagly, who is a social psychologist, female leaders tend to demonstrate more transformational leadership styles as compared to their male counterparts. Collaboration and inclusivity have been found to improve with greater representation of women in a group.

In 2022, the proportion of women in senior management roles across the world grew to 32%, the highest it has ever been.  Unfortunately, women are still majorly underrepresented in leadership positions. In the USA, they hold only 35% of management positions even as they comprise more than half of the workforce. This dynamic begs the question: why?

There are a number of reasons, and depending on race, socioeconomic status, region and other factors, the issues can shift and change. However, across the board female stereotypes and gender discrimination dissuade women from actively vying for leadership roles. Further, lack of workplace security is a structural problem that must be addressed as well. 

One such solution to the barriers of women in leadership is simple: diversify intentionally. 

Socially, if a company denies the ability for marginalized groups to access fields they deserve to be a part of, it marks the company's reputation, and for good reason. The increasing push for diversity in a modern world has made corporations enact initiatives to ensure the representation of women within their company. The initiatives develop a progressive way of thinking within companies that protects women so they will be able to easily access a full-fledged career. Inherently, this plays a major role in supporting women’s careers and entry to leadership. 

In addition to large-scale corporations, our government has also been taking steps towards promoting diversity in workplace leadership. The National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality has ten strategic priorities, which focus on economic growth and security, eliminating gender-based violence, proper and direct health care, and overall equal representation and services. 

Female leadership is crucial and its necessity cannot be overstated. Firstly, it breaks stereotypes and challenges gender norms. Visible women in leadership challenges the idea that women should not hold these seats. When young girls see women leading successfully, it will expand their idea of what is possible, which is encouraging to those searching to fill these roles.

Third, it enhances diversity and inclusivity, which is something corporations are striving for. Inclusivity and diversity has the potential to make closed off atmospheres feel more accessible to those it wasn't accessible to before. Long term, we can expect to see the gender gap in leadership decrease due to the wider acceptance of women in these positions.

Currently, there are many obstacles making it difficult for women to access higher positions in society. Firstly, common stereotypes create animosity towards the idea. This creates a barrier that is difficult to break through. Additionally, there is societal pressure from women to be in the home. This makes creating a work-life balance exhausting, as since women have more barriers they need to work harder 

Women make up 50% of the population, but only 35% of leadership positions available in the workforce. It’s crucial we stress the positive outcomes of female leadership to achieve a more even statistic and close the gender gap.

Image Credit: Maryville University