Posted by: viviannaatkins | March 14, 2018

Women, Power, and Change

Out of all the concepts of leadership, the concept of power has been the most intriguing to me. In general, while men seem to gravitate and thrive in the light of power, women shy away at the mere mention of the word. In fact, according to Gloria Feldt in her article From Oppression to Leadership: Women Redefine Power, women consider the term offensive to other people and “too dominating” (18). From this, we can tell that women usually consider power as controlling over other people, and they try to avoid filling this role to not be considered “bitchy.”

On the other hand, however, most female leaders believe in empowerment. This is their way of expressing that they want to be influential without having to claim a right to power. Exhibited in this article from International Women’s Day last week, famous women leaders encourage other women to seek power. They encourage other people to not only speak their mind and become more agentic, but, seemingly, to become less feminine. Carol Goman’s Linked article (attached below) warns females who are seeking influence to veer away from “girlish gestures” such as smiling excessively, being overly emotional, and even acting like they are intently listening. In short, they all believe that to gain the most power and influence, one should act less feminine to be in favor of a more masculine approach.

With context of Debra Meyerson and Joyce Fletcher’s A Modest Manifesto for Shattering the Glass Ceiling, this approach that is most advocated in today’s society falls under the first “fix” to the problem that has no name: assimilation. In this approach, women are trained to be more assertive, make more decisions, and even how to golf (130). This solution, however, won’t change anything and won’t allow for greater influence because it doesn’t affect systematic problems in the organizations.

All these great leaders are trying to promote a better world, but they are doing so ineffectively. These leaders that are raising the next generations should teach females not how to change themselves to be more powerful, but how to set powerful goals that snowball into evolutionary change. Women today are already more confident, and the upcoming generations consider women leadership as increasingly normal. So the equalization of the genders need to stray away from individual leadership characteristics and focus more on overarching systematic goals. In doing so, they need to also consider the male perspectives, and women need to reassure men that their obtainment of power will not subtract from the power that men have.

Do you agree that empowerment is a female way of saying to seek power? Furthermore, do you believe the work of Meyerson and Fletcher that argues that assimilation of females into a more masculine way will no longer benefit them in the workplace? Do you think that females should try to be more masculine or celebrate their differences in influential tactics? What do you think is the next step in this process of a more equalized society?


  1. When I think of female empowerment, I think of a woman already in power, who is helping other women realize their potential, and challenging them to strive for leadership. I agree that empowerment means “to seek power.” However, I do not think the average woman seeks power for the formal title. I believe most women seek power because they have realized the positive impact they can have on an organization. This feeling of achievement and hope is empowering!
    I also agree that Meyerson and Fletcher are right in that women should not assimilate into the workplace environment. Although assimilation tactics, like adapting communication styles, will help women be successful in the short run, it will hinder company progress for the future. Assimilation requires one group to lose its identity so that they can adapt a new group’s culture. Losing an identity can lead to depression and a time of crisis. This is seen in students who study abroad; when immersed in a completely different culture, students feel a loss of their identity and experience culture shock, often having a difficult time adjusting for the first month or two. From a company standpoint, assimiliation is not beneficial. If women try to lose every unique quality that makes them women, a company is losing potential ideas. If everyone in a company thinks the same way, it is hard to get differing opinions, debates, or multiple creative solutions. Maintaining this female identity may prove challenging at times, but I think it is most beneficial for the company, as well as women themselves.

  2. I think the women movement that is occuring today and the empowerment of women is an important step for women to gain more power. However, power over others is not the only power women need to embrace. Sometimes the greatest power we have is the power within ourselves. A lot of women today do not have confidence because of the low amount of women leader statistics. Empowering women, is giving women back the power within themselves thus helping to shape their leader identities further.

    In my interview with the CFO of PAA, a locally non-profit, she brought up an interesting idea about gender. She wonders that with all the PC terms today if the goal is to go gender neutral. If our society was to think in gender neutral terms how would this benefit women? Would this be a positive or negative thing? On one hand it would negate the need to be more masculine or feminine. However, would that actually level the playing field or hurt it? Would this undermine all the work women have put in to achieve their own empowerment and indepenece?

    Assimilation seems like it would be the best thing for women like stackable cups that all need to be the same in order to stack. However, diversity of gender, race, and other factors is what brings different ideas to the table. Having female and masculine power is like pieces of a puzzle, they are all different pieces, but you need all of them to complete the picture. I think women should celebrate their differences, and that all begins with empowerment.

  3. Different women approach power differently. Some, like you said, tend to shy away from power, or at the very least, do not like to refer to power as “power”. On the other hand, there are also many women that work towards empowerment. These women love to hype themselves up and push themselves towards success. Empowering oneself is a very liberating and gratifying, therefore, it can be an incredibly positive and fulfilling act. However, I think some women may take female empowerment a little to far and are overcompensating for the fact that they are women. You stated that Carol Goman advised women to refrain from behaving in stereotypically feminine ways. She said that women should not smiling excessively or even act like they are closing listening to people speaking because those two acts are “girlish”. I do not think listening to others that are talking to you is “girly”. I think it is just respectful. Some women try to stay away from behaving like this because they want to appear less feminine in a man’s world, but I think they sometimes end up hurting themselves in the process. This is when people start to form negative opinions about women. They believe that these women are hateful or bitchy, so behaving like that may actually end up holding them back rather than propelling them forward.

  4. This is something that i can definitely relate to. If I ever find myself in a leadership role I never like to boost “power”. For whatever reason, I feel like that word has a negative connotation. After taking this class I feel like the reason for this is because I subconsciously am compensating for being a women and I don’t want people to automatically assume I’m a bitch for acknowledging my power. I realize now that this is a major double standard and is not acceptable. In addition to being able to better analyze my own actions, I am also starting to spot this issue in everyday life. For example, when I was conducting one of my two interviews, I was picking up on these double standards in her stories that she herself wasn’t even picking up on! I thought it was so amazing to see the change in my outlook shift and be able to experience it from the other side. Constantly, I hear women discussing empowerment versus power, and almost every time the women would empowering others over exercising their own power. Let’s change this!

  5. I found your post to be really interesting! I definitely think the topic of power is a hard one because I find myself, like most women, denying any association with power. I have no problem seeming authoritative if needed and getting the job done right but something about the word power seems to come with a negative connotation for me. I love the part where you mentioned how many people are encouraging women to change rather than becoming more empowered with the strengths they already have. No one should change to lead a certain position but rather should embrace all they amazing skills they already have. Leadership is beautiful because of how we all lead in different ways, instead of being afraid of diversity we should encourage and thrive off of it. I also think it is very important for women to continue to empower one another but in that process to not forget to empower themselves! Yes, we want to encourage each other to be the bets that we can be but we also have our own power that should be shown!

  6. I definitely agree that women should not sacrifice their individual attributes to be more like men in order to obtain more power. If women need to be more like men, then that is saying that male perspectives and styles are better than the female way of life. Of course this is completely false. Men should respect females as who God made them to be and not shy away from women who desire power. However, if more women have power, does that mean less men will? I think that depends on your definition of power. If power is a means of controlling other people, then I think there is a limited amount of power available. If everyone is powerful, no one is. However, if power is having influence over a group for the betterment of everyone, then there is no limit. I think of empowerment as being more of the latter. Everyone, males and females, should be empowered in their jobs, social interactions, and family life. This allows for selfless action that truly benefits others and yourself. It’s time for the male ego to go.

  7. I don’t believe that women need to become more like men to be good leaders. In fact, I think that women have equally beneficial traits that men do. Neither is better than the other, but the male traits of leadership are the most obvious to us. Ideally, I think that the best leader would have both male and female leadership qualities, being able to be assertive, and strong, yet nurturing, and empathetic. No one gender has it right, so the idea to become more of a man isn’t progressive. This concept is great in theory, but when it comes to the real world it is hard to get past the cultural speed bumps. So, should women be themselves? Yes, that is what makes them unique and powerful.

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