Overcoming gender gaps in women's leadership positions

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Overcoming gender gaps in women’s leadership positions

Today, after almost four years from the beginning of the financial crisis, businesses, governments and common people are searching for ways of reaching stability or growth. In this new economy people and their ideas play an important role. Visionary leadership and innovation are necessary for the system recovery and considered competitiveadvantages for every business. Now, more than ever, gender gaps have to be demoted. The United Nations has created a new entity to empower women and to reduce gender gaps, women customers have started to attract marketers’ attention, women access to education became crucial in a world where their abilities and skills are required in business or politics due to law requirements (World EconomicForum, 2010).

The equality in rights between women and men is not a new subject but a recent one due to the incapacity of today’s economies to answer a simple question: why women continue “to struggle against a glass ceiling” (Jones, Palmer, 2011) and which are the most susceptible areas for gender inequality? In order to answer this question, the World Economic Forum has designed the GlobalGender Gap Index, which analyses the gender gap in four categories: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment. According to the Global Gender Gap Report, the most favourable area for equality between women and men is education, where a number of 22 countries (from a total of 134 analysed) have completely eliminated the gender gap. Thearea in which the women have the smallest influence is the politics (the highest result achieved by a country being 0.6748, the maximum being 1 (equality) and the minimum 0 (inequality)). According to Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook, of all the people in parliament in the world, 13% are women.

In the corporate world, the numbers are not very different: no more than 16% of the jobs in the topleadership level are held by women. This low percentage is explained by gender discrimination, resistance to change and stereotypes (PewResearch Center, 2008). The most important gender issues are related to women’s personal sacrifices in adopting a “masculine perspective” (Jones, Palmer: 2011) in order to lead and be respected in a business environment, their difficulties to negotiate and compete fortop management positions and to overcome gender stereotypes. However, the principal problem that women usually have to overtake it is the need of balancing between their personal lives –mothers, wives, social individuals- and their careers.

Many women in leadership positions are criticized for their tough leadership style and their resistance to change can lower their influence and minimizetheir results. Practically, a women in a leadership position is required to show compassion, to be friendly and warm and the most important, she is seen and approved mostly as a democratic leader rather than an autocratic one. On the contrary, men face no necessity to be “agreeable while exercising power” (Lips,2009) and can easily reach effectiveness while leading using an autocratic style.Women underestimate their abilities and are less likely to ask for what they want. They do not negotiate at the same level as men do, especially when the negotiation is “unstructured, ambiguous and rife with gender triggers” (Northouse, 2010). Also, women minimize their results by not admitting a personal recognition of their work (usually they give credit for their achievements to their family,teams or to a lucky day, despite their hard work, leadership abilities and competences).

The most common stereotypes that concern women are linked to their feminine characteristics, such as concern for others, sensitivity or the ability to communicate and help the others. If a woman lacks in any of this areas, she is usually disparaged and not taken into account. One particular stereotype is...
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