Posted by: melissarizor | February 11, 2015

“Equality” in Leadership

“I’m fed up with this tyranny of either/or choices in life — ‘either it’s men, or it’s women.’ We need to start embracing the beauty of balance.”

Halla Tomasdottir

This is a quote from Halla Tomasdottir’s TED Talk that we watched in class on Tuesday. We have talked frequently about gender and social and societal roles in a dichotomous way- men versus women. However, we have also recognized the need for the degendering of leadership in a way that creates a sense of “balance” and disregards the patriarchal hierarchy.

Halla states that she is tired of choosing between men and women, and the difference between them. She calls for unanimity between both. However, she states that “women’s values” are the key to solving financial crises. She doesn’t blame men for the economic collapse of Iceland, but she points attention to the open-ended statement that men were the ones at the helm of Iceland’s economy and banking industry during the collapse. If Halla is calling for a balance between men and women, stating that she is tired of a polarized view of values and leadership, then how is shifting the blame to men not turning the situation around to devalue the roles of males in society?

We have agreed with Halla in class, stating that we need “equality” in leadership in society. But is “equality” really the word we are looking for? Maybe acceptance would fit better. Do you think that what we are searching for when we search for “equality” is more of a search for the acceptance of diversity and the eradication of sameness? Why?

The discussion of how women and men lead differently is an interesting subject to navigate. Research continually states that women and men do not lead in ways that are statistically different. However, we have spent the last six weeks discussing how men and women are different in terms of traits, tendencies, and stereotypes. If we are to accept diversity eradicate sameness throughout society, what are some of the ways we can go about doing this? How can we, as the next generation of educated leaders and entrepanuers, begin to avoid these issues that we are navigating in current society? Can we? We are equipped and knowledgeable about these ideas of gender differences in leaders, and how these ideas are adapting as society changes over time. How can we adapt our leadership approaches now to facilitate the balance between the leadership of men and women as our generation begins to take the place of those who have come before us?


  1. As we have discussed in class it will take a few years before we will ever see a change in women leadership. As educated leaders soon to be entering the workforce, it would be helpful if we as leaders show that leadership styles are not genderize that women and men can both be agentic and communal. In the question of should we be thinking of acceptance not equality, I think that if society accepts women as leaders it will also result in equality. People no matter the gender are all different and we have different ways of leading and that should be accepted, no matter gender.

  2. This is a very good point. I didn’t notice that she was somewhat of a hypocrite in her speech. Maybe equality isn’t what we need because we ARE different. I’ve always said that we’re all human at heart, but then I say we were created for different purposes biologically and evolutionarily. Both those statements are true but contradictory. I like the idea of acceptance. People are meant to be different. If there wasn’t a difference between men and women well the human population wouldn’t exist. I don’t like the idea of unisex things either, because if we all looked the same we lose our individuality. There are always pros and cons to a utopia or an ideology. It does also annoy me that the statistical evidence doesn’t show a difference in leadership styles but society still sees one. In psychology, sometimes psychologists will combine therapies together because one on its own just isn’t good enough. The combination of therapies in practice is to find the best fit for the patient in need. I think this applies, well for one, to everything, but also to leadership. We have trait theory, and all these other theories that never go far on their own. In order to change our perspective to acceptance rather than equality, we should start by understanding that there is more than one way to get to the same end result and that neither way is good enough on its own. It all depends on the situation.

  3. To address your first question, I think that in order for there to be equality then there has to be acceptance. I think that acceptance precedes there being equality. I applaud Halla for not blatantly bashing men and putting the blame on them harshly as we see other leaders do. It always surprises me when we watch female leaders that are giving talks on equality, but they still make remarks, such as joking about qualities of men that may be looked at as negative. It is as if they are doing to men what we do not want men to do to us. I think it is neat that Halla points out that if something is wrong then it needs to be tweaked, changed, or given some new additions. There has to be something that helps it move past where it currently is. I think that it is hard to move past where we are in society because things have been the same for so long, although there has been much improvement on many different subjects throughout the years. There are things that are ingrained in much of society and how people think about gender and what the expectations of men and women are. I think if we are going to move past this, then we are going to have to actively work to make our minds think in ways that allow for more diversity. We have to combat the notions that are ingrained in what we have seen in earlier society. Good leaders are the ones that are able to adapt to situations and this is where we all are given the opportunity to adapt to the current situation and help others to move along with us.

  4. I don’t think equality is the right word to use. Equality, in the end, would be ideal, but I don’t think it is an obtainable goal. As bad as it sounds, we, as an entire society, have not even reached true equality between whites and African Americans. Legally, everyone has the same rights, but that does not mean there is not a bias in the work force, or when a gas station clerk is closing at night and an African American walks into the store as opposed to a white person. It sounds awful, but it is the sad truth. There are always going to be those who choose to see the differences in people instead of the beauty in the diversity.

    As we have talked about many times in class, diversity seems to be the key to success. The more variety of ideas a business can come up with, the more options they have when dealing with ways to raise money, or a new ad to run, or better ways to connect with the community.

  5. To comment on the term “equality”, one definition states that equality means “uniform character”. Personally, as a woman, I do not want my character to be uniform to a man’s nor anyone else’s for that matter. I realize that this is not the only definition of equality, but it is the one that stuck out to me. The fact of the matter is that as much as people strive for it, I do not think that anyone is truly happy with just equality. People crave superiority. Making it to the top is what keeps people going. If everyone were equal, there would be nothing to compare to, nothing above our reach to strive for. If we had true gender equality and equal representation in leadership roles, people would get bored because there would be nothing to fight against. I think what women need is both acceptance and promotion. Not too much promotion though, that it begins to overshadow the men. It does not need to be about power and hierarchical standing. I just think that everyone needs to do what they can with what they have and do it right where they are- men and women alike.

  6. I learned in one of my business classes, organizational behavior, that men and women only differ when it comes to task leadership. With that in mind men and women do have different traits and characteristics that make them different and it is helpful to have both men and women at the top to have diverse opinions and ideas. when watching that video in class I did think it was strange how she made the claim of wanting equality but then discussed leading with women centered values. This is something that I’ve struggled with during class. We need men and women to work together but then we focus on how women are better and we should be following the lead of women. I think it is important to notice women who are making a difference but I think we should be looking at it in a degendered way. I do think she had great ideas about how to lead a company and she said how she believed men and women are equal but then she characterized the qualities of leading with the word female. Do you think if we degendered leadership that this would become less of a problem? Would leadership become about people and not the separation of men and women?

  7. In class, after watching Halla’s TED talk, there was near unanimous consent that the goal of the feminist movement was for women to gain equality to their male counterparts. I agree with this sentiment, though I think that the term equality requires clarification. Equality does not have to mean absolute egalitarianism, but should instead should be defined as balance and fairness. I do think that acceptance of diversity could be applied to this, but that it cannot be used as something that may limit individuals who identify as either sex. For example, men can be characterized as physically strong, but this cannot serve as a factor that limits the ability of women to gain construction jobs. Likewise, women can still be thought of as compassionate, but men should still be able to gain careers in child care.

    Further, I do not think that the eradication of sameness is the correct way to rephrase equality. Differences should be embraced, but it is also important to remember that we are all human beings, who deserve respect.
    If equality, in the feminist movement, is redefined to mean balance, then incorporating this sentiment into society will require time and money. This change cannot be expected to take place over the course of one month, year, or even generation. It will require time to reshape views on gender, as well as a commitment to the cause. Monetary contributions will be necessary to create media campaigns aimed at children teaching them the tenants of gender equality from early childhood. Additionally, adults will have to work to decrease anti-women rhetoric in society. This would have to be applied even in areas like humor and comedy, so basically, no more “go make me a sandwich” jokes.

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