Lesson 13 touches on what observers and workers think of women leaders and how they compare to men. Alice Eagly conducted three meta-analyses on gender and leadership during a ten-year period from 1992 to 2002, and the findings suggested that women leaders should not act too much like men, nor should they act too much like women (PSU 2013). Working a thin line between those two polarized ends, has there been more acceptance of women leaders since the meta-analyses were conducted?
A recent Gallup poll found that 35% of respondents would rather have a male boss than a female boss, 23% would prefer a female boss, and 41% had no preference (Gallup 2013). This is a significant change from when these questions were first posed in 1953, when 66% of respondents preferred a male boss and only 5% preferred a female boss (Gallup 2013). However, the percentages have been fairly steady over recent years.
(photo credit: Gallup)
Having worked for excellent male and female bosses, I am encouraged that the majority of respondents don’t prefer one gender over the other. Acceptance of women leaders is still trending upwards, albeit very slowly, as it has been for most of the timeline. When drilling down into the data, I was surprised to see that 40% of female respondents preferred a male leader, whereas only 29% of men preferred a male leader.
(photo credit: Gallup)
Since the rate of preference of female leadership has been rather stagnant, what can be done to improve the acceptance of women leaders at a quicker rate? The commentary for Lesson 13 discussed many barriers that can be addressed, but one barrier in particular I think merits particular attention. The Lesson 13 commentary listed “lack of white male mentors” as an interpersonal barrier, but a mentorship may not be enough. Mary Davis Holt is an author and a partner of a consulting firm that promoted women and workplace advancement. She proposes that sponsorship is much more effective than a mentorship (daSilva 2012). What’s the distinction between the two? Mentorship involves one person showing another the ropes of the job and providing career advice, whereas sponsorship adds a dimension of advocacy (daSilva 2012). For women to be represented more in the highest positions and affect workplace culture, it is immensely advantageous to have someone sponsoring and advocating them to aid in obtaining higher positions. This sponsorship can give women the support to be successful, overcome all organizational, interpersonal, and personal barriers, and break through the glass ceiling. As more women become successful in the executive ranks, the broad perception of women leaders will change and there will be a higher rate of acceptance of women leaders.
daSilva, J. (2012). Q-and-A with Mary Davis Holt: The state of women in leadership. SmartBlog on Leadership. Retrieved from http://smartblogs.com/leadership/2012/08/27/the-state-of-women-in-leadership/.
Newport, F. and Wilke, J. (2013). Americans Still Prefer a Male Boss. Gallup Economy. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/165791/americans-prefer-male-boss.aspx.
Pennsylvania State University World Campus. (2013). Lesson 13: Leadership and Diversity. Retrieved from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/fa13/psych485/002/content/13_lesson/printlesson.html.