March was #WomanHistoryMonth, so we chose an article from the Guardian to discuss Why universities can’t see women as leaders? You can see the announcement here and catch up with all tweets from our discussion in our storify.
The article states that the percentage of women appointed to lead universities has been increasing (between 2013 and 2016, 29% of new VC recruits were female). Also, last Elsevier’s Gender in the Global Research Landscape report showed an increase in the % of women doing research. However, women account for more than 50% of the U.S. population. In academia, women are ~50% or more of PhDs & postdocs in many fields, with that percentages decreasing at the faculty stage. Still, there’s a big discrepancy – where this comes from?
Yes. As the article points out, there is a lot of bias regarding what is considered as “merit” to be a leader. The majority of the population (96%) agree than men and women are equally qualified to be a leader – but still, anything associated with female gender or femininity is devalued. In academia, women are usually pushed early in their career towards roles that require them to do mostly teaching & administration. “Because it is easier for managers to apply pressure on women, who will comply, than on male individuals, who will refuse”. Even if women are leaders, they face challenges to doing their work that men usually don’t have to face. They have to be seen as competent AND likable. Not being liked = not a good leader.
Women fight a daily battle for recognition. This implicit bias has to be fought earlier in life! Women are expected to always say “yes”. To be nice, and make others happy – what are not qualities usually attributed to a leader. Woman have to learn how to say “no“. Earlier, more often, and more effectively. But also, we need to teach people to accept no for an answer. To ask for things in ways that allow people to decline.
Are men and women different? Definitely. Are they different kind leaders? Probably. According to this article, men tend to be more task-oriented while women take on a more interpersonal style of leadership. Therefore, a “masculine” style tends toward assertive and task-based behaviors, while a “feminine” style is more relationship oriented and “democratic.” Additionally, Cummings noted, men tend to take greater intellectual risks and have higher self esteem, whereas “women are coping” and tend to be more efficient when it comes to solving problems. But acting differently doesn’t mean being a better or worse leader. Just different.
Thanks for everybody that joined and hope to see you next month!
Links shared: Designing a Bias-Free Organization