Posted by: maddiewellman | April 9, 2018

Crossing Cultures

This week in class we have been presenting on very impressive female leaders from all around the globe. While researching for this project I found an interesting article about factors that restrict female leaders around the world. I will attach a link to the article below, but essentially the author discusses research by Soo Min Toh and Geoffrey Leonardelli from the University of Toronto. Their research discusses “tight” cultures in contrast to “loose” cultures. “Tight” cultures are generally more rigid; these cultures allow for the establishment and perpetuation of restricting gender norms and expectations. On the other hand, “loose” cultures are the opposite: they tend to be more accepting of any deviation from their already fairly flexible norms. Toh and Leonardelli argue that women are often held back by “tight” cultures and have more opportunity to access upper level leadership in “loose” cultures.

Interestingly, Norway is considered to have a “tight” culture. Norway provides a contradiction in this context because of its reputation for female leadership and women’s empowerment. Toh and Leonardelli argue that this is due to federal regulations that Norway’s government has put in place. Their gender quota system, for example, has required companies and organizations to look more closely at who they are hiring. This study showed how “tight” societies, which we would assume to be worse in terms of having women in leadership positions, are actually generally just as good at providing leadership opportunities to women when the government of these societies decides to endorse and support egalitarianism. Norway is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Women are less hindered in Norway because their government has fully endorsed egalitarianism, which its citizens accept because their society rarely deviates from the social norm of supporting the government.

Toh and Leonardelli argue that “loose” societies are good for women, too.  These societies encourage change and have provided opportunities to women across the board. Societies like these allow women to find success in the workforce and often encourage them to own small businesses.

This article presents two alternative reasons that women can’t seem to break into upper level leadership. First, women have not created “paradigm-shifting companies” like Google or Facebook. The article also says women aren’t leading because they have been trained to see leaders as men and, therefore, they allow the men to lead. The author argues for women “to be ruthless and to take big risks” if they truly want to compete with male leaders.

Do you think the United States is more of a “tight” culture or a “loose” culture and do you think that has affected female leaders in the US? Do you agree the culture is less important the individual operating within it? Finally, do you agree that women need to step up and take risks in order to be seen and treated as leaders?


Here is a link to the article:


  1. I think I read this article for my annotated bibliography! I think culture plays a huge role in one’s ability to practice leadership. Culture shapes our societal norms; in many countries, it is unacceptable for a woman to have access to education, much less lead. However, as today’s presentations in class showed, there are always powerful leaders able to overcome adversity and a culture pitted against them (perfect example: Malala). In general, I think culture is more important than the individual operating in it, because the broad scope of culture can effect many individual acts of leadership.
    As far as the United States, I think we are a relatively loose culture. We have a lower power distance, meaning we are generally accepting when people want to challenge the norms. Cultures with lower power distances typically translate to “loose” cultures, because they are okay with things being shaken up, and the idea of a female in charge.
    Regardless of types of cultures, I think many female leaders face resistance because it is simply different. We read an article back in February that discussed how people resist change (mostly because they are afraid of loss). Over time, with enough female leaders breaking the mold, it should become a widely accepted, normal occurrence to have a woman in charge.

  2. I really enjoyed the article because it opened my perspective on how I consider women’s equality in various cultures. As with the example of Norway, rigid governmental practices are not necessarily equivalent to strict social norms and stringent gender roles. However, after perusing through the article a little more, I found another point that the author made just as interesting: “The one thing women around the world have failed to do is create paradigm-shifting companies. None of the great technology start-ups – for example, Google, Apple, and Facebook – were founded by a woman. Nor were any of the leading hedge funds, the innovators in the world of money, established by women.” This blatant absence of women from the executive branches of the business world show an immense disparity in women’s leadership. Whether a nation is considered “tight” or “loose,” women are still neglected from the ranks of capitalistic power. Why is this? What are the underlying social factors – if not cultural rigidity – that bar women from these positions?

  3. I think this characterization of ‘tight’ or ‘loose’ countries is a slightly different take on Hofstede’s masculinity dimension. This dimension doesn’t refer to males or female specifically, but how rigid gender norms and expectations are. But anyways, the first time I read the article, I thought there was no way that a ‘tight’ culture, with more fixed gender norms, was actually more accepting of female leaders than loose cultures. But, the explanation that tight cultures are likely to support the will of the majority: if the majority of the population wants a culture that allows women to achieve leadership positions, the government will take steps to accomplish this goal.

    To talk about another one of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, tight cultures seem more likely to be collectivist. The group gathers together to achieve a goal that will benefit the majority. Norway is an example of this because of their cultural desire for egalitarianism. This value can also be seen in the socialist government. Sometimes I wonder what American society would look like if there were different political structures. I wonder if America’s capitalistic republic hinders female participation.

    The article seems to take a stance against tempered radicalism. It says that women must take risks to be seen as equally capable of leadership; as a class we seem to have agreed that there are a great number of benefits of tempered radicalism. The word they used was ‘ruthless’ and I think that word is one that many women would shy away from. I think they would have the same reaction to ‘ruthless’ as they would ‘power’ in that they don’t see that concept as being applicable to women.

    I would classify the United States as an interesting mix of tight and loose cultures. In one sense, the US is a heterogeneous culture; it seems like it would be a loose culture. On paper, the US is a wonderful melting pot and everyone respects each others’ differences. This is not always the truth in practice. For that reason, I would call the US a tight culture. Most of the power in the US is held by white, upper class, older white men. In that sense, the power is centralized in a homogeneous group. This has severely limited leaders of female/nonbinary genders and minority ethnicities. I would disagree that the culture is less important than the individual. It’s a chicken and egg metaphor that I don’t think has a real answer. In a sense, I do think women need to step up if we want the world to change. I would say that a more accurate statement would be that I think everyone needs to step up and take risks to be seen as equals.

  4. Hi Maddie!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the cultural impact on women in leadership!

    I agree with Maddie in her claim that America is a mixture of “tight” and “loose” cultures. While I think America tries to uphold the values of a “loose” culture, it sometimes reflects the values of a “tight” culture. This is especially true when considering who holds the majority of the power in America.

    Because of this, I think that American women have had many opportunities to make strides in leadership and have

  5. *I accidentally pressed “post” before I was finished on my last comment*

    Hi Maddie!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the cultural impact on women in leadership!

    I agree with Maddie in her claim that America is a mixture of “tight” and “loose” cultures. While I think America tries to uphold the values of a “loose” culture, it sometimes reflects the values of a “tight” culture. This is especially true when considering who holds the majority of the power in America.

    Because of this, I think that American women have had many opportunities to make strides in leadership. However, in many ways, women have faced adversity in their quest for equality and success.

    While women have not yet created paradigm-shifting companies, let’s not forget all of the women who have made paradigm-shifting discoveries, led paradigm-shifting movements, and achieved paradigm-shifting accomplishments – Rosalind Franklin, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, Shonda Rhimes – these women all played a role in shaping the world that we live in today. Let’s also remember that women are still relatively new to the leadership world. While men have had plenty of time to craft their skills and take advantage of their opportunity, women are still navigating leadership and the limitations placed on them by society. For this reason, I think that while individuals are obviously important to the leadership equation, culture and context play a larger role because the situation determines what opportunities are available, how a leader is supported, and what challenges the individual will face.

    Finally, I think that most leaders, regardless of gender, are leaders because they stepped up and took a risk. Women shouldn’t need to go above and beyond their male counterparts just to be noticed and treated the same. Women and men should be taking equally large risks, putting in equal amounts of hard work, and receiving equal amounts of support. Only then will we begin to see more women in leadership.

  6. I also think that the U.S. is a combination of both “tight” and “loose” cultures but I think what makes America a little bit more complicated than other countries such as Norway is the way that American citizens relate to the United States government. Unlike Norway which has citizens that tend rarely deviate from the norm of supporting their government, American citizens do not necessarily subscribe to the same norm. Maybe because Americans tend to be more loyal to a particular political party rather than to the U.S. government as a whole, we do not have a culture that generally follows the direction of the government without hesitation or some sort of push back. Though it would be helpful for our government to take similar actions as the government of Norway in regards to the promotion of gender equality, if the institutions in the U.S. are not on board with the new regulations than I’m not sure such policies would have as much of an impact due to all of the push back they might receive.

  7. I enjoyed reading this article, I believe I read this last semester in my cross-cultural leadership class. Culture plays a large role in how both genders operate in any leadership position. I have a lot of personal experiences because of my parent both being foreigners from France and Australia. Sometimes I find it strange the ways people interact with one another, let alone in a leadership role because it’s not what I know. I have a hard time with personal space for example, I have to be hyper aware to make sure I am not invading anyone’s space because I am not use to it. You need to be aware of your own flaws in order to succeed in any environment. This bring me to my point about culture and leadership; a leader is only going to as good are their job as their understanding for the people around them. Culture is just a more macro approach to our three pillars of leadership” leader, follower context. I think it is hard to any individual regardless of gender to operate in a culture. However, I do think if you have been exposed to a different culture and then you are introduced to a new culture with a leadership position; there will be many challenges.

  8. I believe that America leans towards “lose” but is actually a little bit of a “tight” and “lose” society. We have a very “melting pot” dynamic in America so its hard to pin point just one of the two as our culture. Also, I ABSOLUTELY believe that the cultural context is what effects the leader the most. This was most obvious to me when I studied abroad this past summer in 7 different countries (and interestingly enough deeply studied the Hofstede’s cultural dimensions while abroad). Every country can be so different there really is no one leader that would be successful in all countries!! There will actually be a Kahoot in my group’s presentation today to touch on this idea as well, as I have always found it particularly fascinating.
    I believe that both the reasons stated in the article about why women aren’t predominately put in leadership roles are pretty spot on. I do however think that there are plenty of other reasons as well that the article did not touch on such as lack of ambition in women leadership. (but I suppose could be argued to relate to society pressuring women to not lead therefore decreasing the women’s ambition).

  9. Ahhh… this is an interesting way of tying each countries government regulations to the presentation of women in leadership positions. The “tight” vs “loose” culture that is examined is kind of another avenue that parallels hofstede’s dimensions in evaluating a country. While reading through both your response and the article, I notice that what differentiates the two is strongly dependent on doctrine that is passed. If there are stringent laws in place, such as a mandatory quota system, females are likely to be represented because by law there has to be a certain amount of diversity. In a “loose” culture however, you are free and willing to thrive forward with no boundaries to hold you back, but no help to propel you forward. The thing I find interesting here is the both types of cultures statistically say they are good for women; however, in differing aspects, most countries (either tight or loose) still are not portraying significant amounts of women in leadership??? Why is that? Give the United States for example, overall our country does not establish quotas for every organization out there. Individual states create some quotas like the populace of universities for instance, and individual public or privately owned companies will choose to apply it to their system, but all in all there is not the established doctrine in our government. I believe that the United States is more of a loose system because there are not country wide confines that are restricting us or promoting us and I think that this way of life hinders more than it helps women in our society. The question we discussed earlier in the year remains, “Are quota systems fair? Is it right to hire a female over a male because you have to meet a certain standard even if the male is more qualified?”

    In regards to the question surrounding if culture is less important than the individual operating within it is difficult to answer because the two go hand in hand. Society establishes a culture that morphs the individual within it; however, the previously mentioned “society” has to come from people that establish what the culture will be.

    As the sayings go: without the risk there can be no reward, risk it for the biscuit, if you don’t ask-the answer is no (if you don’t try-you automatically won’t get it) etc… I agree that women do need to step up and take the risk because if we continue to sit back, no change will be made and society will continue to rule how organizations live their lifestyle; however, I do believe that women who intrinsically do not want to progress into the executive roles and decide to live the “mom” lifestyle should not be forced by other women to do so, because if they are then the likelihood of them being successful and depicting a strong leader is lessened due to their heart not being completely invested.

  10. This is an interesting comparison between cultures. I believe that the U.S. is more of a “loose” culture rather than a “tight” culture. This is due to the amount of freedom we have as individuals. Women and men are able to make a name for themselves. This is one aspect that makes America so great! However, that doesn’t mean that genders are necessarily equal in the U.S. Women still need to work harder than men to achieve the same results and positions. This is unfortunate since women can be just as good as men in leadership roles, often taking a different yet effective approach. Men do have to work to achieve as well, but to a lesser extent than women. I think the individual and society as a whole play equal roles in the individual leadership process. With total oppression, women will struggle to be leaders. With no oppression and no personal drive, women will also struggle in leadership positions, both official and unofficial. The important thing is for women to try their best and for us as a society to accept everyone as potential leaders.

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: