- For women, the road to leadership is more strewn with pitfalls and overcoming the prejudices and societal stereotypes that permeate the unconscious prejudices of their subordinates and superiors.
- At the management level, qualitative interviews with employees in Kenya often highlight their concerns about whether a female leader will rely on decision-making and emotional reactions.
- Studies have shown that when women demonstrate domination in the workplace by expressing specific direct demands, it unfairly harms their sympathy with men.
Thousands of us in Kenya aspire to take on leadership positions in our organizations. Whether in government, parastatals, banks, co-ops, universities, tech companies or insurance companies and everything in between, employees are fighting for the right to lead teams, departments and companies. whole entities. But becoming an effective and competent leader is proving difficult and often a difficult lonely journey for many.
However, for women, the road to leadership is more strewn with pitfalls and overcoming societal prejudices and stereotypes that permeate the unconscious prejudices of their subordinates and superiors.
Some progress has been made, as shown by large-scale surveys by Kim Elsesser and Janet Lever, which found a slight majority of respondents say they have no preference for the gender of the boss they wish to report to.
However, among those who have a gender preference for their supervisor, workers are twice as likely to prefer a male boss over a woman. But in 360-degree rating equivalents, men rated female bosses more favorably while women rated male bosses more favorably.
Why the general preference for male leaders? First, we need to understand some of the research highlighting the many barriers women face in the workplace.
David Smith, Judith Rosenstein and Margaret Nikolov conducted a study of 81,000 military performance reviews to find that on objective measures, men and women scored equally. On subjective measures, men and women received similar amounts of positive attribute feedback.
Ten positive words were typically used multiple times to describe men, such as analytical, competent, reliable, confident, and logical, while positive words to describe women were only four which included compassionate, enthusiastic, energetic, and organized.
Conversely, men received significantly less negative feedback than women with only two recurring negative attributes of arrogance and irresponsibility.
During this time, women received a lot more subjectively negative comments which were broken down into 12 negative words including inept, selfish, frivolous, passive, scattered, etc. The subjective bias here is staggering, especially remembering that on objective measures, men and women got equal scores. The women were given subjective review verbiage that reflected societal attitudes and stereotypes which, when contained in job performance reviews, made it more difficult for these same women to gain promotion and re-employment. jobs that men rated. The negative attributes attributed to women were more severe than those attributed to men.
Second, at the leadership level, qualitative interviews with employees in Kenya often highlight their concerns about whether a female leader will rely on decision-making and emotional reactions.
Victoria Brescoll has published solid research which also shows emotional bias in Western countries. Women must navigate difficult paradoxical leadership scenarios that men do not face. First, women must critically decide how many emotions they will manifest in the workplace, knowing that their subordinates already unfairly expect them to be more emotional.
So even small manifestations of emotion provoke exaggerated confirmations of stereotypes in the minds of their workers. But on the other hand, if women don’t express emotions then they are seen as too cold and failing to fulfill their societal obligation to be warm and caring. Third, women need to know what types of emotions to express. Women who show anger, pride or irritation then experience contempt from their staff at disproportionate levels compared to men who can express these same emotions.
Melissa Williams and Larissa Tiedens reviewed 63 research studies that showed that when women demonstrate domination in the workplace by expressing specific direct requests, it unfairly harms their sympathy with men. Researchers linked the decrease in sympathy because dominant women went against established gender stereotypes in society.
So the next time you see a businesswoman or a political leader, be it Martha Karua, Debra Mallowah, Ednah Otieno, Jennifer Riria, Juliana Rotich, Esther Passaris or Nancy Ng’ang’a among many others. , recognize that they deserve our respect. because they overcame greater challenges to reach their heights as titans of industry and government.
Dr Scott can be contacted on [email protected] or on Twitter: @ScottProfessor