Fortune 500 companies with women positioned on their boards yield stronger return on equity than those with less women. These companies consistently maintain at least a 26% performance lead than their competitors in the same market. Since women in the US influence more than 80% of buying decisions, it stands to reason that there should be a relative distribution of women leaders in those organizations, says Dr. Patricia Anderson of Authentic Transformational Leadership.
Women in leadership makes economic sense. Conceptually, this is valid, according to Dr. Anderson, however, there exists a gap between conceptualization and the realization that women lead only 4% of Fortune 500 companies and hold only 16% of corporate board seats. Dr. Anderson proposes an examination into the causes and effects that are limiting or reducing the number of women in leadership positions is warranted.
Internal and External Barriers
Substantial barriers to women leading are both implicit and explicit in nature, noted Dr. Anderson. These obstacles are present in academia in general, and in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields. For instance, researchers cite “male-dominated networks, intimidation and harassment” as detractors to women pursuing leadership positions. Developing women leaders, on the other hand, is a step in the right direction. Dr. Anderson advises that educating women on leadership practices, challenges, and providing viable support will help to ameliorate some of the challenges that are prohibitive to their interest and pursuit of leadership positions.
Recruitment efforts for women are not as robust as the efforts to attain and retain their male counterparts. Additionally, the perception of female leaders by both male and female, overall, is that women are less competent, and in a male dominated leadership culture, fewer women at the top indicates less support for those aspiring to those positions. Sexual harassment is also a deterring factor, according to Dr. Anderson. Perception and reality both serve to dissuade women; they play out a less than desirable scenario mentally, and then decide not to pursue these positions. Dr. Anderson contends that an uphill battle is what they expect, and some choose to go with the flow rather than muddy the waters. Men, on the other hand, may view a woman’s presence in leadership as a threat, and employers view women, because of childbirth and child-rearing, as being less productive and costlier to the company.
Men in Leadership Positions
Dr. Anderson observed that despite research evidence to the contrary, men still hold most leadership positions. In the areas of decision making, sociologists cite women as being conditioned to be more empathetic, consistent, and sensitive to others’ perspectives in decision making. Why, then, do men hold most of the leadership positions? Dr. Anderson cites cultural standards, gender socialization, as well as perception, as playing vital roles in how men and women are treated in the workplace, and subsequently frame their ascendancy through the leadership ranks. Since the primary responsibility of the household usually falls on the women; men by default can focus more on their careers, promotional opportunities and career development.
Gender schema theory, asserted Dr. Anderson, originates in the home and can transcend to the workplace, affecting women in limiting their perspectives about gender roles, and subsequently defaulting leadership roles to the male to fulfill. Some women may feel that taking on the role of a CEO, means they may have to project male characteristics, rather than simply being themselves. It does make a difference that men hold the lion’s share of the leadership positions, since research consistently identifies desirable leadership traits as more prevalent in women than in men. In that case, the more qualified person should lead, regardless of gender, affirms Dr. Anderson.
In Women in Transformational Leadership…Why Now? – Part 2, Dr. Anderson discusses the benefits of women leadership. Additionally, she explores DEIA implications, mental wellness, inclusive design, and leading in the metaverse, as they relate to women leaders.
About Dr. Patricia Anderson
Dr. Anderson holds a degree in Computer Science and an MBA in Management Information Systems and International Business. It was love for inspiring and empowering others through leadership that ultimately led her to start an organization that focuses on transformational leadership coaching and development. She has worked for some of the world’s most prestigious organizations and CEOs, including General Electric and AT&T. Dr. Anderson also lectures at the Forbes School of Business and Technology and other business schools. She is also a Certified Change Practitioner.
Dr. Anderson is transforming the way leaders think about Organizational Change Management (OCM) by sharing her ground-breaking research on the attributes and conduct of transformational leaders. She targets two core leadership behaviors: Authentic Transformational Leadership (ATL) and Pseudo Transformational Leadership (PTL), and identifies the effects of ATL and PTL leadership, designs strategies for effectively reversing PTL behavior, and prescribes optimal solutions to successfully lead in both the current and post-pandemic business environments.