Posted by: emilymalley12 | February 4, 2015

The Importance of Leading “Like a Girl”

As many of you saw, I posted the Always “Like a Girl” video as my test post a few weeks ago. When I was searching for an article for my post, I naturally searched “ways to empower female leaders.” In doing so, I came across a wide array of articles and news pieces identifying how and why women should be empowered in leadership roles. Without putting much thought into it, I clicked on the first link to an article on and it let me to “Lead Like A Girl: How to Empower Women At Every Level.” The article, written by Zeynep Ilgaz, begins by explaining the “Like a Girl” video but then goes further into the staggering percentages of female leaders in professional leadership roles. The direction of the rest of the article, however, went in a direction that I wasn’t expecting. Ilgaz identifies that yes, while we are trapped in a patriarchal society, women are also partially responsible for holding back from leadership roles based on certain fears they have. Following this, she resourcefully identifies several ways to combat the fears.

Three common fears identified by Ilgaz are the fear of failure, family matters, and an inferiority complex. The fear of failure stems from women’s concern that if in a leadership position, decisions she makes will end in failure and even the chance of job loss. Family matters pertain to women being afraid that if they decide to start a family, their employers will perceive them as weak and insubordinate to their male counterparts. Lastly, the influence of an inferiority complex identifies that while there are examples of strong female leaders, some women believe that men are still inferior in leadership roles. On the contrary however, Ilgaz identifies three ways to combat these fears. First, be yourself. in order to be a good leader, you have to be transparent enough to be relatable, while still maintaining respect as a superior. Second, trust yourself. It’s important to be confident in the decisions you make and know that regardless of the outcome, there will always be a learning experience to appreciate. Third, mistakes are okay. While we all have grown up thinking that we have to be the “perfect” students or the “perfect” child, people make mistakes all the time. It’s important to recognize that leaders are human just like everyone else, so yes while female leaders tend to be under constant supervision, it’s okay to mess up along the way.

This article really helped me put into perspective thoughts and feelings that I have thought about as being a female leader because it seems as though we are constantly under a microscope being looked at by everyone else in the world. While gender is something that will always be present as a means of defining ourselves, it doesn’t have to limit the leadership capabilities of female leaders.

What are your thoughts on the “fears” listed by Ilgaz? Have you ever found yourself questioning your own leadership style because of them? Would you say that these “fears” are becoming overcome by female leaders, if so, do you think there is any backlash because of it?


  1. This article touches on the article we read in class about women fearing power. We want power but it’s a word with such a negative connotation that we don’t like to use it in the way it’s commonly thought. I like Ilgaz’s advice to be yourself, trust yourself, and own mistakes. Men do it but it’s just the norm for a male to be a leader. When we break expectations all eyes are on the person and they feel as if they have to be perfect to earn respect and trust to their followers. I do wonder though that when a male breaks expectations people initially are all about him and his business but after a while they forget him. On the other hand, it seems for women eyes are never taken off and so they can be leaders for a long time and as soon as they mess up there is a consequence. In my personal experience as a leader, I question my style based on my followers. I don’t question my ability, ever. But in order to be a good leader, male or female, we must adjust to the followers because they make you a leader in the first place.

  2. Ilgaz’s article brings up a good point when writing about fears that women face when in the workforce. I know that I have experienced the fear of failing in some of the jobs I have had in the past because I want people to think that I am competent to do the job. Women face the fear of failing because they are trying so hard to succeed in what ever task they have been given so they do not seem incompetent. Though as society has been progressing there seems to be more women who are becoming more confident in their jobs and abilities. There does seem to be a trend among women that they are not inferior to men. Even men are seeing women as equal and capable leaders in any type of job. Though it will take a few more years for women to get over the fears they face as they become important leaders in society.

  3. As mentioned above the ideas presented in this article are congruent with studies of women leaders, as well as other articles we have read in class. The three fears identified by Ilgaz, failure, family, and inferiority, all lead back to a conception of one’s own self. In many ways the fears that are linked to identity, are linked to a lack of confidence in self by many of these women. These fears are all symptoms of this lack of confidence. For me the question that I think will help identify the real source of the problem is, “what causes this lack of confidence?” If we can identify what causes this questioning of self and loss of confidence steps can then be taken to alleviate these symptoms and women might be more comfortable in leadership positions. In the articles about power and in the articles about communication I kept being drawn to this notion that it all comes down to confidence in identity. In many ways this loss of confidence in identity starts relatively young as in many ways girls are coddled in a way that could lead to questioning of self, and the feeling that they have to be supported by others. I also think that there is a false facade that is placed on women that leads to a crisis of identity revolving around women thinking they have to be perfect at all areas of life. This is a very unrealistic picture that leads women to have less confidence in them self leading to the fear of not being there for there family. So how do we solve these issues and prevent a degradation of confidence in identity.

  4. I too would like to discuss this idea of confidence. The woman who I interviewed today kept touching on this idea of confidence. She said that “Leadership will find you when you are confident. Because leadership naturally follows confidence.” I think that really any personal fear or insecurity can be solved simply through confidence. Whenever I find myself questioning my choices or my roles, it stems from a lack of confidence. Usually this is because of where I am getting my confidence from. If I look to others to be my source of confidence, I will surely be disappointed. I have discovered that, especially as a woman, confidence and not caring what others think of you is directly related. It seems as though women often have a harder time drawing upon their own self confidence than men…. Furthermore, it seems more socially acceptable for a man to act “cocky”, but if a woman acts this way she is perceived negatively by others.
    I think that women need to decide to have a healthy amount of internal confidence if they hope to be successful leaders. Not too much though and not too little because like everything else, it’s a balancing act.

  5. I know that as a human I definitely feel a fear of failure. I think everyone male or female has this. I think the sources of the fear may be what causes gender bias. Women may fear failure because of their gender and that women aren’t generally viewed as prepared leaders. Men probably feel the fear of failure possible from the expectation that men are better leaders and they have to live up to the expectations. I think it is important to look at the card from both sides. I do understand the female perspective on the choice to start a family. Becoming a parent is a huge commitment for both parents. But women have to carry the baby for 9 months and are typically expected to be the ones who take care of the child after birth due to breastfeeding and such. So I definitely understand the fear that just because someone you are a mother, you could be perceived as less competent, which seems very unwarranted. I really like the ways to overcome them. Specifically I like the one about being yourself and being confident in yourself. If you are not being genuine and leading from a true place then how can you truly be a leader? I also love being realistic about our expectations of leaders.I think we hold all leaders on a pedestal but especially women so that if there is a screw-up they have that much further to fall. I really liked this blog post!

  6. One thing that really resonated with me is the fear of failure, that is one that probably that makes me question rather or not I should step up to the plate and take more of a leadership role. I don’t like to let people down and so if you are in a leadership position people are looking up to you and counting on you to do the right things. So within these positions I really am self conscious about making everyone happy and doing the position to the best of my ability.

  7. This article makes a lot of good points, but I’m not necessarily sure that I agree that these fears are the fault of the women. Every fear listed still stems from a patriarchal view of society. Fearing failure is fearing that you will not reach the same level of accomplishment as it is typically defined. Fearing family matters is fearing that you will either not fit, or fit too well, into the gender stereotype that was constructed by a male dominant society. And the fear of inferiority is directly proportional to the fear of not being “good enough” to make it in a man’s world. I can see where these fears perpetuated by women might make it more difficult for them to achieve powerful leadership roles, but these fears are still predominantly due to the oppression women face in the leadership arena.
    I am not trying to claim that men purposefully create these fears and push them on women as a way of keeping them down, but these are fears that a patriarchal society has created and built upon to the point where women are afraid to even step into the ring, much less toss their hat in and compete against men for the same positions. It is important to remember that living in a state of fear is not healthy nor beneficial in creating equality.

  8. It is relevant that you bring up these common fears among women because I was just discussing some of these issues with my mom as well as my interviewee recently. My interviewee expressed that on the journey to the position she has now (the Executive Director for a nonprofit pregnancy center), the challenges she faced specifically as a woman had to do with making decisions regarding her family. She had to choose to leave the business world for a time in order to start her family, but she did not let that decision stop her from returning to the market place and continuing to pursue her career.
    In regards to the discussion with my mom, she expressed that she feels an inferiority complex. She said she knows she “does not step up” to the occasion of leading, partially because her personality does not lend itself easily to that position, but also because she has faced misogyny over the years in business. She does, however, embrace leadership in her own nonprofit business that uses animals in a therapeutic manner for victims of sexual and domestic abuse. She is an example of a woman who was not necessarily well-embraced while in the business world, so she began her own nonprofit business in order to be a leader.
    These are examples of two women who have faced these fears and reacted in different ways to them, but who have both become woman leaders, just in different capacities.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: