Working Women Everywhere

Strong Female Leaders

You don’t have to be a full-fledged feminist to believe that women make great leaders—just like men do. But qualities are not synergistic with the sexes; leadership style is atypical and cannot solely be attributed to gender. There can be dominant, aggressive, strong female leaders just like there can be male leaders who are more emotional, sensitive, and passive.

With women now accounting for 47% of the U.S. workforce, which equates to nearly 66 million according to the U.S. Department of Labor, it’s clear that women are quickly gaining presence in the business landscape, and therefore, naturally, are becoming strong contenders for leadership roles. And while women are still most prevalent in nursing, teaching, and secretarial positions, females are seeping into all areas of business—as they should.

Not all promotions are created equal

Beth Brooke, Global Vice Chair of Ernst & Young and listed by Forbes magazine as one of the world’s most powerful women, eloquently depicted the boardroom tactics that we’re seeing today when it comes to women getting promoted.

“Research shows that women at mid-level tend to get promoted based on performance and men tend to get promoted based on potential. So people look at the men and say ‘we think he can do that next job, we’re going to promote him,’ but they look at women and go ‘she’s never done that next job, I don’t think she’s qualified enough,’” Brooke said recently to TV ONE’s Q+A.

This corporate mentality is why women represent only 11.1% of board seats in the Fortune 500, 11.2% of corporate officer positions, and make up a mere 2.7% of top earners in Fortune 500 companies according to Glass Ceiling.

This global, albeit historical, epidemic continues, despite recent advances in favor of working women.

Sticks and stones

Women are and have been battling an uphill effort in order to be taken more seriously at work—and it’s safe to say they’re making headway. But the fight is against strong, longstanding stereotypes that have been around for decades.

According to a recent Huffington Post business blog post, there’s nothing that high-powered women dislike more than a simplistic name game of classic stereotypes.

Today’s woman faces a double-edged sword, where she’s damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. If she displays “too much” ambition, she’s called aggressive, masculine—an “ice queen” of sorts. On the flip side, if she’s “too” collaborative and communal in nature, she’s weak and emotional.

It’s a silent game of under the table name calling that women must navigate—as they play up both the hard and soft qualities that have been so commonly attributed to the gender.

What women want

What does today’s businesswoman want, aside from leadership equality? What keeps her engaged and dedicated to her current employer? Randstad recently conducted a survey to find out. Topping the list for women was workplace flexibility, a pleasant work atmosphere, and location.

But both genders listed competitive salary and benefits as their number one factor when deciding to stay with an employer.

Today’s workplace not only calls for but requires the engagement of women. The multifaceted face of the business landscape cannot afford to ignore nearly half of the pool of today’s candidates, which are women.

The most competitive and compelling companies will be those that take leadership, not for face value, but rather by the qualities that those candidates bring to the table. And that table, eventually, will be a healthy combination of both men and women.

Visit Randstad's Women in Business Research and follow our sister blog, Women Powering Business

By: Brittney Murray / On: May 14, 2013 /

In: Leadership, Careers, Career Paths, Management

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