Gender Discrepancies Within Leadership

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Updated: Mar 05, 2021
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Leadership is intertwined throughout the world and people’s everyday lives whether they realize or not. It is in their offices at work, on their favorite sports teams, and even at home. And while there are many aspects of leadership that can be delved into, the main idea of this paper is women and leadership. Women in business today are not always seen as equal to their male colleagues and can experience many challenges, biases, and inequalities in the current professional world. This paper explores some of these hardships, including gender inequalities in leadership, specific differences in happiness and salary of men and women, and lastly the strengths of different leadership styles between male and female leaders. Women need to be seen as equally capable of being leaders as men are; and while many may already believe this is true, it is certainly not a universal thought, as this will be apparent throughout this paper. Many people may not be aware of the issues that surround women in leadership, and there needs to be more attention brought to the subject. Additionally, there need to be efforts being made to close these gaps and lessen the inequalities that are very apparent in the business world currently. A difference in gender is not fair reasoning for providing fewer opportunities, experiences, and places for career growth to women compared to men in business. This paper will highlight some of these issues, along with the strengths that women carry as leaders, and discuss why there are important changes that need to be made so that both men and women in business can be seen and treated equally in positions of leadership. There will also be discussion on how these issues could be worked upon and improved, what changes could be made, and how these changes would better organizations and women leaders in business.

Gender Inequality in Leadership

Inequality in today’s world is not a new concept, it has been around all throughout history, all over the world. However, it is particularly relevant in the world of business between men and women. In an experiment done by Tina Kiefer, she asked a room full of business executives to draw a leader and as a result, almost everybody drew a man (Murphy, 2018). Researchers who had a similar experience with this activity investigated these results further as to why having such unconscious assumptions surrounding gender can alter people’s ability to identify emerging leaders, and what they found was that overall, getting recognized as a leader as a women in the workplace is much more challenging than that for men (Murphy, 2018). While this example only brushes the surface of the inequalities between men and women in leadership, it clearly depicts the bias and inequality that people in today’s world have engraved in their minds.

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If society can shift this stereotypical mindset to a broader and fairer realization that both men and women are equally capable of being leaders, it would be a phenomenal step in the right direction for women in business. Unfortunately, however, it appears that there is still a great deal of change that needs to be made for this to be the case. Moving forwards, research from PwC, involving 10,105 women aged 20-35 throughout 75 countries, stated that in 2011, 29% of respondents felt their employers were biased in promoting men over women, and this percentage rose to 43% in 2015 (Addison-Lavelle, 2016). This is disheartening to see that as time progressed, the lack of women in leadership roles has seemingly gotten worse when ideally, it should be improving. Additionally, PwC’s data also stated that 71% of respondents said they wished to have an international assignment to further their careers, however, only 20% of these respondents were given such opportunities for global assignments compared to 80% of men that were given them (Addison-Lavelle, 2016). This is an extremely frustrating set of statistics as it shows the blatant bias that occurs for women in the workplace. Women should be able to have the same opportunities as their male colleagues to progress and grow in their careers and as leaders. However, it is important to note that these leadership inequalities are not only happening in the United States, but in other countries around the globe as well. An article from The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) stated that in Japan, 39% of lower secondary teachers were women, along with a mere 6% of head teachers, and similarly in the Republic of Korea, where these numbers were 68% and 13% (“Gender inequality persists in leadership positions,” 2018). This UNESCO article also stated that women hold fewer leadership positions compared to men in higher education as well; specifically stating that 13% of these institutions throughout 27 countries within the European Union are run by women (“Gender inequality persists in leadership positions,” 2018). While these statistics may not be focused directly within the traditional business setting, they still go to show how inequality affects women in business beyond the United States. Women in business are lacking equal opportunities to excel in their careers compared to men and it is something that needs to be addressed.

This research surrounding these inequalities will ideally help better shape the future for women in business as it can help bring these issues towards the surface and spark ideas on how to solve this, along with the many other issues women in leadership are experiencing. Happiness in Leadership; it’s not all Equal With that said, the next issue of focus regarding women in leadership positions is their level of happiness compared to men in equivalent positions. In a study conducted in Germany involving 27,000 non-managers and 3,174 managers, which 33% were women, the women in managerial roles reported being less happy than men, with women scoring a 7 and men scoring a 7.3 on a scale out of 10 (Randall, 2017). Data showed that it is more than just gender discrimination that prevents women from attaining leadership roles, in fact it is that women understand that although there are bonuses to holding more power such as higher income and status, there are also additional sacrifices that come as well, such as needing to make tradeoffs and time constraints, and they are able to anticipate how these affect their lives better than men (Randall, 2017). This creates a difficult situation that businesses should address in more detail. If there was a compromise that could be made to solve this, it would allow women to have better opportunities to attain leadership in business, while simultaneously being happy while doing so. Mental health is extremely important in today’s society and it is important to make work an emotionally supportive work environment for everyone. To add to this, an article from Scientific American addressed how it is probable that there are actually many reasons as to why women are less happy than men in leadership positions, one similarly being that women value their spare time more than men do (Gino, 2017). With this, research showed that women also were found to have less satisfaction with larger incomes, than men do, in particular data from researchers used in Gino’s article stated “it would take an extra 12,000 euros of pay to boost a woman’s life satisfaction by the same amount that a man would gain from an extra 5,000 euros of pay” (Gino, 2017, para. 8). These statistics show a need for improvement of opportunities for women to attain positions of leadership, starting with pay. If companies sincerely want to increase their number of female leaders, they should analyze research as such in order to reassess their salaries, and make leadership positions in the workplace more appealing and worthwhile for women and men alike. This introduces the next issue that women in leadership are experiencing, the difference in salaries men and women receive in leadership positions.

Salary Discrepancies in Male and Female Leaders

Of the S&P 500 companies located throughout the United States, only 5% of their CEOs are women (Sell, 2018). This is an alarming statistic, as there are 505 companies within the S&P 500, and 5% of that total is a mere 25 female CEOs. Out of these female CEOs, PepsiCo’s CEO, Indra Nooyi, is the highest-paid at $25.9 million, however, while being the highest paid female CEO, she barely even comes close to making the top 10 overall highest-paid CEOs, ranking at number 18 (Sell, 2018). While $25.9 million is a lot to most people, it barely scratches the surface compared to the salaries of top-paid male CEOs throughout the world, which presents as apparent gender discrimination. The Equilar/Associated Press CEO Pay Study of 2017, discussed in an article from CNBC, showed the blatant inequality between male and female CEO salaries, with the top paid male CEO earning close to $99 million, while the top paid female CEO on the list only made slightly over $32 million (Berger, 2018). Climbing the ladder of success and gaining authority within an organization to attain a role as a leader is already challenging enough for women, so once they earn that position, shouldn’t there be pay to make it worthwhile? While these thoughts are frustrating, they solidify the idea that if companies and organizations want to increase the amount of female leadership in their establishments, there needs to be a serious reevaluation of their determination of salaries for these women. To add to this, Andrea Johnson of the National Women’s Law Center, made valid points in that the way that wages are determined for higher level employees allows a great deal of room for biases to come into play such as performance evaluations, and the perception of how able women are in their work compared to that of men (as cited in Berger, 2018, para. 13). While pay can rightfully be based on experience, seniority, skill levels, etc., it is clear that there is a problem in the way that pay is determined for leaders in business. These salary discrepancies between male and female leaders make it clear that there is a flaw in the payment of employees. A gap of $67 million in pay between the highest paid male and female CEOs shows that this goes beyond skills and job capability and that there is a discrimination of gender whose gap needs to start closing. Regardless of gender, there should be a set pay for the position, that way it eliminates the potential for bias and gender discrimination. But while this all may seem discouraging, there is at least one thing that female leaders excel at in business compared to their male colleagues, their leadership style.

Female Leaders Exceed In Leadership Style

Most everyone will have a different or varying way of approaching leadership and how they feel as though they guide others best, and it is apparent that this is particularly true in the comparison of men and women. According to a survey of literature regarding leadership styles of men and women, when compared to men, women were rated as “better at developing others, inspiring and motivating others, building relationships, and collaboration and teamwork” (Gipson, Pfaff, Mendelsohn, Catenacci, & Burke, 2017, pg. 43). These findings may be in relation to women typically having a naturally more nurturing personality and usually thrive on positive relationships and interactions with other people. But additionally, these results are also analogous with other research evidence as well. A study done using female Chinese leaders, particularly in academics, found that they succeed best with “transformative, collaborative, consultative, and servant leadership style” (Ha, Bi, & Zhang, 2018, pg. 9). This is extremely important because communication in the workplace is vital to a successful organization. Without a leader that can collaborate and communicate properly with their colleagues, an organization will not be able to live up to its potential for success. In another area of women leaders, specifically women on Boards of Directors, research showed that they make decisions through more “complex moral reasoning,” and are more likely to take into account varying standpoints, and bear in mind the various interests of people (Gipson et al., 2017, pg. 45). This is another very important characteristic for a leader to have as they need to be able to see multiple standpoints and consider varying opinions and interests of their colleagues so that everyone’s voice can be heard and there is no bias occurring in the workplace. This allows everyone to have input on decisions being made and how things are run and creates a collaborative environment. To add to this, in a study using a Pew research survey, 31% of respondents stated that female leaders are better at being honest and ethical, while only 4% of male leaders were (McGregor, 2018). Honesty and ethics are other valuable characteristics to have as a leader, as when it comes to communicating with colleagues, it is important to stay truthful and fair to avoid conflict and miscommunications in order to maintain an uncomplicated workplace. Furthermore, there is also research that showed that female leaders are more likely to be democratic and participative in style compared to male leaders, which are more likely have more of a commanding or controlling style of leadership (McGregor, 2018). Having these traits as a leader creates a communicative and inclusive environment that is ideal for having an effective workplace. Incorporating other people within the workplace into brainstorming and decision making is important, as it brings more ideas to the table and allows others to have a voice and sense of involvement in the organization.

This leadership style seems much more appealing than the commanding style that male leaders can adapt, as it not a very most supportive environment if people are blatantly being told what to do. Overall, the above research findings regarding the traits and styles of female leaders reflect positive and effective leadership. These traits appear to be going unnoticed in the real world and are not being appreciated and advocated for enough. This research has the potential to be used to shape the future world of business for women and help remove society’s stereotype of leaders typically being male. Such positive leadership styles would make workplaces more efficient and welcoming and should be adapted to more organizations. However, while women’s styles of leadership may be a strength, it has been made clear that it is not enough to close the gap between male and female leaders in business. Conclusion The research discussed throughout this paper has made it very apparent that while women may have strengths as leaders, there is not enough equality and fair opportunity in leadership positions. The research highlighted in this paper is a step in the right direction in hopes of leveling the playing field for women in business, however, there is not enough discussion around it currently for it to make an effective difference.

The more research that is done surrounding this topic and the issues related will bring more attention to them and ideally decrease their prevalence in business. What is puzzling, however, is that if female leaders have more involved and effective leadership styles, than shouldn’t there be more incentive and reasoning for organizations to hire and promote more women into leadership positions? Better yet, shouldn’t women that already hold positions of leadership in business receive salary increases because of their seemingly preferred and more successful leadership styles? To add to this, an increase in salary for these female leaders and CEOs that were highlighted in this paper would also increase the overall happiness of women in leadership as well. And since men are already happier in leadership positions than women are, increasing the salary of these women closer to those of their male colleagues would also make these positions more appealing to women, according to the research mentioned. With this said, it seems as though that if there were more in-depth analysis and more prevalent awareness of these issues regarding women in leadership, a few serious changes within organizations would greatly improve the functionality of the workplace along with the overall well being of women in business.

There are too many difficulties and discrepancies that are occurring within business between men and women that are going unnoticed. The research that has been highlighted in this paper needs to be made more accessible to the public, along with increasing their awareness of these topics as well. That way, there could be an increase in advocating for change regarding these issues for these women in business as well as overall improvement of these businesses and organizations. Organizations in the world of business should reevaluate their strategies for both the benefit of their companies and women in the business world. Women in leadership positions in business deserve more equality fairness.

Discussing the topics of gender inequality in leadership, happiness between female and male leaders, salary discrepancies, and the varying leadership styles between men and women within this paper has been eye-opening to the problems that exist in business surrounding gender. It has been made apparent that businesses and organizations have a lot of improvements to work towards increasing equality between men and women in leadership positions. People’s visions of leaders need to improve to include both men and women so that more equality can be reached in the world. While leadership is constantly surrounding people in their everyday lives, it is important to realize that there is more besides what lies on the surface. What people don’t see normally see that lies deeper within roles of leadership is what should be focused on and looked at more in depth so there is a greater understanding of such issues that have been examined within this paper and there can be improvements made to ideally resolve them.


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