“Masculinity” and “Femininity” in Leadership

What is the difference?


ellie johnson

Masculinity and Femininity in Leadership

According to the Institute for Women’s Leadership, women earn more bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in the U.S. than men and represent 47% of the United State’s workforce, yet only make up 4% of CEOs and hold only 24% of leadership positions. Why then, if women are truly considered equal to men, are men still associated with leadership?

The central reason behind this is that many believe that traits necessary for a good business leader are all defined by the ability to be cold and heartless, and the stereotypical male fulfills these traits better than a woman. For example, Gabrielle Smith, student from Audubon High School, said, “Leaders have to be affirmative and never wishy-washy when trying to come to a decision; ladies, we all know this doesn’t apply to us. And among other things, kindness is disposable and at the end of the day doesn’t get things done.” However, one must never generalize a group of people, especially by gender. It’s 2020, our society should be past generalizations. There are plenty of women who are strong, cold, and tactful that would make fantastic business leaders, and on the other hand there are plenty of men that are sweet, softhearted, and empathetic that would not be able to make the difficult decisions that CEOs have to make.

However, all of that applies to business leaders- not necessarily world leaders. The qualities and skills that world leaders must have go beyond “getting things done.” As James Clawson, author from Uva Darden, said, there are several qualities that a person needs to be a good world leader such as “overseas experience, deep self-awareness, sensitivity to cultural diversity, humility, lifelong curiosity, cautious honesty, global strategic thinking, patiently impatient, well-spoken, good negotiator, and presence.” These aspects of a leader are entirely different from those of a business leader, and interestingly, many of them apply more to a stereotypical, intelligent woman rather than a man. According to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, writer for the Harvard Business Review, “men tend to perform better when the focus is on managing tasks, while women tend to perform better when the focus is on managing people.” Again, generalizations should be avoided and the same applies to when women have a natural inclination for certain qualities over men. There are many men who can be sensitive to cultural diversity, humble, deeply self-aware, and a good negotiator, but women also possess these qualities.

All this being said, those in leadership positions, whether it be in the business world or on the global scale, should be chosen individually and not based on generalizations about their gender. Men can be empathetic and sensitive and women can be cold and calculating, and both sets of qualities are useful for different positions.