Women in Business Myth #3: Women are not strong enough

 

Myth #3: Women are not strong enough

Even though some agree that having women in leadership positions is a global concept, and that men need to be involved in the cause to help women advance in their careers, the concept of women not being strong enough to lead is still evident in some circles in Africa.

In most African cultures, women manage the domestic affairs of the home with dexterity, ensure to be role models as well as guardians to their children and are also advocates, mediators and advisers to immediate and extended family members. We are the selected gender to carry, nurture, protect and laboriously birth children and yet some say we are not strong enough to lead corporations.

I’ve been honored in my time to have witnessed the breaking of the “glass ceiling” by women such as President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia and the late Wangari Maathai, who have successfully proved that women can lead, and lead exceptionally well.

A school of thought may even argue that because of women’s oestrogen make-up, we are ruled by emotions and incapable of keeping our head in challenging situations. Research has proved this incorrect: a recent publication by Calipercorp uses years of case studies to show that women in leadership roles are better equipped at achieving superior results. Women use their emotional intelligence in bringing perfect strangers together and to form winning teams. They seamlessly manage crisis and change and also earn respect by learning from their adversities which enables them make competent decisions. Women also seem to take more risks, and strive to meet their targets more often than men in the same positions.

Leadership: A new era has begun

The current information era has created a new model of leadership. It states that effective leadership considers other people’s feelings and thoughts and responding appropriately to these are paramount. It holds mutual and interactive relationships in high esteem. Very recently, Fortune posted their new ranking of the World’s Greatest Leaders, of which fifteen of them are women (Sirleaf inclusive), and in a follow-up article by Geoff Colvin, points to these women as having one single trait that makes them distinct, a trait that male leaders should inculcate: empathy. I noticed that the men on the list have mastered this trait as well.

It is refreshing to see that the world has evolved from holding women back from leadership positions to tagging them as natural leaders: Geoff goes on to place the old model of leadership (which upholds direct authority) at par with the new model (which upholds personal interaction and influencing of broad range of groups). He terms them hot-power and cool-power respectively. He asserts that in this new era of leadership transition from hot to cool, women may well have an advantage over their male counter parts because we innately possess these skills to begin with. While men do not naturally have these skills, they can work towards acquiring them to become even more effective leaders.

So, do we agree that African women are unassumingly strong and capable of handling powerful leadership roles? What other misgivings (in your opinion) contribute to this myth of women’s weaknesses?

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