What’s gender got to do with it?

by Mary Anne Harrop-Allin: Lecturer on Leadership and Change Management and Advanced Business Research on the MBA: Milpark Business School.
Recent statistics reveal that the percentage of women in leadership positions is still not as high as that of men. Furthermore, women still often find themselves in positions where their remuneration is not on par with that of their male colleagues holding similar positions. Culture is binding, stereotypes are restricting, and gender issues abound. Much talk therefore ensues regarding glass ceilings and cliffs, equity legislation, ethical challenges and female empowerment. The women in leadership debate continues.

Life in the 21st century is vastly different from that of our distant ancestors. Ages ago, in some cultures, men went out to hunt for food to feed their families, while the women had babies, gathered and stirred the pot. Life was simple and the roles were clear. Fast forward to 2021, and we see women at work and the roles blurred.

Recently, a young couple moved in together and, when asked who did what in the household, the woman answered: “We share the cooking and cleaning, but when it comes to the heavy stuff, like taking out the garbage and fixing the sprinkler system, he does it. I care for the pets, do the interior decorating and flowers in the flat, and I have even mended his favourite T-shirt.”

Is this not a hint at the age-old ‘hunter–gatherer’ philosophy? Are these specific roles then not instinctive? We are certainly wired differently, men and women – even though this notion itself has become a contentious issue of late. The nurturing instinct is said to be inherent in women, which has led some to assume that women’s approach in leadership positions is different and often more successful.

Further contentions to be resolved in this arena relate to women wanting to be recognised as equal to their male counterparts, to be paid the same while holding the same positions, and to be considered for promotions on par with their male colleagues. Simultaneously, women also want appropriate maternity leave and time out to take care of their children’s needs.

These are all issues that make the women in leadership debate ongoing. However, research abounds regarding leadership styles and behaviour, and the impact thereof on followers. Successful leaders support, transform and listen, while being self-confident. They are assertive, enthusiastic and warm, and they have a generous dose of emotional intelligence. Moreover, successful leaders are trustworthy and courageous, while always adhering to high ethical standards, as they have integrity.

Considering the abovementioned aspects, the question is therefore simple: “What’s gender got to do with it?”

Useful resources:
Milpark Business School
Since 2008, Milpark has offered a wide range of programmes targeted at meeting the needs of students in business in South Africa. In addition to management education, Milpark also offers a wide range of qualifications in financial planning and insurance, and banking and investment. As a result, Milpark is a leading niche provider of qualifications to many sectors, able to offer an articulation path from FET through to the highly valued MBA degree.
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