A very prominent issue in the world, both in business and politics, is gender inequality. Through the decades it has become clear a “glass ceiling” exists for women who want to succeed in leadership roles. (Hymowitz & Schellhardt, 1986). A recent Eagly meta-analysis, based on research, stated the following: a woman must “take risks-but not be consistently outstanding, be tough-but not macho, be ambitious-but know they will not receive equal treatment, and take responsibility-but follow others’ advice” (PSU, Lesson 13: Leadership and diversity, 2020, p. 2). There are various explanations of why women have not been as successful as their male counterpart, in obtaining important leadership roles. But, as well as obstacles, their exists solutions. I believe the organization in which I work for part-time has a gender inequality issue that is almost invisible and is not purposely there. I have a real estate company and when I shift from my own office and arrive at my part-time job, I automatically feel the difference. Gender inequality sometimes is so subtle, you have to look twice. This gap or inequality is in large part reflected by the fact that although “women earn 57% of the bachelor’s degrees, 60% of the master’s degrees, and more than half of the doctoral degrees” (National Center for Education Statistics, 2011), they are still underrepresented in the labor force. Women face organizational, interpersonal, and personal barriers in the workforce. ((PSU, Lesson 13: Leadership and diversity, 2020, p. 5). A personal barrier, and a constant situation being faced by women is the self-implication or selection process to consider in their personal life, of choosing how to deal between home and work, that is just not the case or men. It has long been conceptualized that women are responsible for domestic chores and children’s caring and educational needs. They have the difficult choice to either become “superwoman” or choose between their professional life or their mommy life. Another option is to try to balance between work and home, which can take a toll on anyone trying to be successful in both. Personally, I have tried to be superwoman, a juggler trying to balance both home and work, and feel I am failing or don’t know what I am doing half the time. Yet, talking to other friends who work as well, I am comforted by the fact that is a struggle many women go through.
Another issue to consider is an interpersonal barrier of “Women who are less likely to receive encouragement, be included in key networks, and receive formal job training than their male counterparts” (Knoke & Ishio, 1998; Morrison & Von Glinow, 1990; Ohlott, Ruderman, & McCauley, 1994; Powell & Graves, 2003). I live in a third world country, where education is dissimilar than that of powerful, advanced countries. The lack of education still has women as the “stay at home” wife without much authority. This are changing, even here, but as a woman who works, I have encountered men who have directly told me to stay home and “let the big boys sort it out”. Prejudice or stereotyped expectations are that women take care and men take charge (Hoyt & Chemers, 2008). My biggest reward is showing them, through hard work, that I am just as capable of managing and excelling in tough situations. I think emotional intelligence is key in situations where women are discredited and must demand to be treated equally.
An organizational barrier to consider is the fact that corporate culture “values and norms discourage the balance of work and family; communicate that women should not be in top positions; and require that women accomplish tasks without resources” (PSU, Lesson 13: Leadership and diversity, 2020, p. 4). Working moms, in various occasions, are conceptualized as this frantic, energetic, coffee in one hand and baby in the other, while having an important meeting via phone and driving her kids late to school- kind of professional. An example of a show that tries to personify and demonstrate the work/home life impossibilities is “working moms” in Netflix. You see how the main character goes through so many barriers to have a successful company, almost costing her to lose her marriage and sanity. Although, women have come a long way from not being able to vote, to now being able to be in an important process of legislation and businesses’; we should aid and encourage solutions for certain situations. I have seen companies add more parental leave days, include a daycare in their installations, and be more receptive in time away from the office, providing the chance for mom who want to participate in activities with their kids.
What can provoke a much-needed change to this inequality? First, we must acknowledge the fact that women are placed with almost impossible demands to be considered for an important leadership role as demonstrated by the Eagly meta-analysis. We must face the incongruency of what is being asked of us, and people have to understand we are fit and able to lead. Second, men can start to take a more active role in the domestic and child responsibilities, giving women more time to focus and excel at work. Third, women must ask for promotions and negotiate their position in the organization. We must admit that “The culture of many organizations is changing; gendered work assumptions such as the male model of work, the notion of uninterrupted full-time careers, and the separation of work and family are being challenged (Cooper & Lewis, 1999; Williams, 2010)”. Progress is visible, and you can see it represented by powerful women in politics, business and altruism. The scope of women in power has grown and we are more empowered than ever before. But it must not stop there. We must educate our girls and boys about the topic, to make sure it is dealt with in the future generations as well.
The organization I work for is composed of a team of more than 10 executive positions in leadership. The top 3 positions are all held by men. They are very capable and do extraordinary work. The rest of the team are women. We have a heavy workload and are encouraged to excel. I work in the development projects, which I have exclusivity to with my business after. I enjoy the working environment at the office, since it’s really easy-going. Yet, I have seen bad jokes and uneasy comments be made, and do not agree with them. Since it was not a comment directed at me, I remained silent. Yet, in retrospect, remaining silent makes me just as guilty of those jokes being able to be told in the office, and I should speak out. Solidarity is the only way to make a true change. Again, I think it is more cultural, than purposeful. “Gender stereotypes are pervasive, well documented, and highly resistant to change” (Dodge, Gilroy, & Fenzel, 1995; Heilman, 2001). Yet, it should not be an excuse. Educating a generation to a change so profound is slow, but it is necessary. We must look up to advocates like Ruth Bader Ginsburg- who serves in the US Supreme court and is lead counsel of ACLU Women’s right Project, Sally Ride- who was the first American female in space- breaking barriers in a universal way, and Malala Yousafzai- who valiantly stood up to unethical and backward ways that were trying to be imposed on her- and instead stood up and used her voice and encouraging words for education and support for other girls going through similar situations (Cook,2020).
Women inequality has seen a positive shift this last decade, yet a lot remains to be done. Women face prejudice, stereotypes, and an almost impossible situation between exceling in their professional life and their personal one. There exist multiple barriers that force women to reconsider and put in more effort than males. They must “choose”, directly or indirectly, between home, work, or a hard balance between both. There is a lot that can aid this situation, starting with encouragement, a seat at the table, and men stepping up and supporting the home front. We sometimes see inequality and remain quiet or dismissive of it yet must become a voice for positive equality in gender issues. “we’ve begun to raise daughters more like our sons, but few have the courage to raise more sons like their daughters”, is a strong statement made by Gloria Steinmen that perfectly resonates with the shift that must take place in order for equality to become more palpable in the climate of this era.
Northouse, P. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice (7th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Pennsylvania State World Campus. Lesson 13: Leadership and Diversity. 2020.
Cook, M. (2020, March 8). 16 women throughout history who famously fought for equality. Retrieved from Business Insider: https://www.insider.com/women-who-fought-for-rights-2018-8