Navigating Gender Stereotypes in Leadership, Part One: Women in Leadership
We live in an increasingly complex world. Globalization, technology, economic shifts and changing markets have created a need for an adaptive workforce. Maintaining a clear vision for the future is essential, because in this quickly shifting environment if we do not see what is coming, we will fail.
To guide a company through this complex environment requires not only vision, but leadership; and excellent leadership requires incorporating diversity. As a business, how do you know when you have the type of leadership necessary to weather the storm? What are the characteristics of this workforce?
The top qualities that excellent leaders bring to the table are integrity, vision, dedication, assertiveness, and decisiveness. There are so many important qualities that are necessary in a leader, but these qualities are indispensable. Skills can be acquired, experience can be gained, but these qualities are part of a person’s very fiber and character and are not easily taught. A company has to have integrity at its core, and so must its leaders.
Although core leadership qualities have not changed in the past few years, the rise of technology, globalization, remote working, social media, and an increasingly diverse workforce regardless of the industry has encouraged leaders to be more adaptive and open-minded. Companies that utilize teams and less hierarchical management styles are the most successful in this current environment, and that is one trend that is not expected to change.
Women in Leadership
Dr. Sandy Kulkin, CEO of PeopleKeys, said in an Aspatore Special Report that “Performance has little to do with gender, and more to do with how well an employee is matched to their role. Therefore, our female leaders who are well matched are our benchmark for top performance in their respective roles. If people are placed in their areas of strength, then they will naturally succeed and as many women become more specialized and skilled in their fields, more and more will naturally move into and continue to succeed in leadership positions.”
Many stereotypes have pervaded the idea that there are intersections of gender and leadership traits. While some people have proposed that personality traits for both genders were limited by the jobs they have fulfilled historically, that is no longer considered accurate. Historically, women’s leadership roles may have been limited to the home. They may have been constrained to leadership via budgeting, managing the household, and raising children. Out of necessity, these roles may have facilitated a nurturing, encouraging, and cooperative disposition. Men have historically occupied roles outside of the home, and these may or may not have involved the same level of consensus and cooperation. But of course, these are historical trends that no longer reflect the reality of the workforce, and people of both genders are capable of expressing any personality and leadership traits. This serves to further affirm the idea that traits such as gender do not impact leadership abilities, and that hiring decisions should be made based off of an individual’s experience and personality.
PeopleKeys believes that when evaluating the specific needs of a job, it is essential to create a benchmark and look at the candidate's or employee's natural leadership traits, both innate and learned. To take everything into account when promoting, managing, and hiring people. They believe it is the CEO's job to create the best work environment and to accurately communicate about that specific environment. Dr. Kulkin continued “I believe if CEOs and managers would assess the strengths of their employees, and place people according to their strengths and natural preferences, people will be more likely to succeed in their roles, regardless of gender. An employee is successful when they are productive, effective, and fulfilled.” PeopleKeys emphasizes the importance of placing people in roles where they can be surrounded with teams of complementary personality styles. They also emphasize cultivating an environment which reduces miscommunication and allows for all employees with all personalities and leaderships styles to thrive. PeopleKeys DISC theory based assessments have created complex personality profiles for over 2 million people. Their assessments are highly customizable to incorporate benchmarks for hiring. These validated assessments foster a hiring process that can create an environment such as this.
Cultivating Women Leaders
Dr. Sandy Kulkin continues “Each occupation has a requirement for task vs. people skills. Some occupations require more people skills than others. Knowing how to inspire, influence, delegate, collaborate, and coordinate effectively are essential because a leader works through people and if a leader does not have the support of the people she manages, then she will have little effect. Over time, women have proven that they deserve equal opportunity, respect, and pay by showing that they are skilled and educated in their fields and are very effective in leadership positions. While some fields still have glass ceilings, all it takes is one woman to successfully break through before other women can follow. The best way to cultivate women leaders is to lead by example. This means placing women in leadership positions. Finding the right incentives, regardless of gender, is a great way to motivate people to do their best. Having more women in the workforce has highlighted benefits such as flexible work hours, remote working, child care, and family leave. Old notions of how, where, and when work is accomplished are giving way to more flexible and differentiated working approaches.” This more flexible, diverse, and adaptive approach to work is one of the ways that Dr. Kulkin believes businesses can adjust to the changing dynamics of the workforce and economy. He also advocates for the merits of including women and multiple perspectives and personalities when seeking counsel to ensure that your business is meeting the needs of all of its customers and employees.
“Our market is shared by companies who do behavioral analysis, so pigeonholing women runs contrary to my own beliefs on fair and equal treatment. William Marston, who founded DISC, the engine behind PeopleKeys behavioral analysis, was an advocate for women's rights so much that he was the creator of the Wonder Woman cartoon character that we know and love today. It is my duty to carry forward what he began by advocating for women as strong champions and role models. We can do this by educating people, promoting women to leadership positions, hiring women into leadership positions, and using behavioral analysis to replicate top performers in companies are all ways to build best practices,” said Dr. Kulkin.