Posted by: laurenschaaf15cnuedu | April 10, 2018

Should we celebrate women leaders?

 

One thing I’ve struggled a lot with women in leadership positions is should we praise these women for their achievements or just normalize it like we do with men in power? In many ways I feel like women in power need to receive positive reinforcement to encourage other women to pursue leadership opportunities. However, isn’t the goal for women in power to just be expected and normal?

As we read about women coming up into power in especially male-dominated field my initial reaction is too say “wow how awesome for her” and it is. It’s amazing that women are gaining confidence and respect to make their way up in the ranks. We’ve learned about the importance of confidence in leaders taking risk and becoming more likely to try again after failures.

But does rarity and celebration of women simultaneously scare off other women? If it a huge deal when women are successful leaders, does that teach younger women that their chances are low to gain their own success in their fields?

We’ve also learned about how women are harsher on other women and highly competitive. When women compete against one another for a leadership position do they feel hostile and disdain these women for being successful where they failed?

I read an article recently that saying “strong women” implies that women are “inherently not strong and those who are must be unique”. This continues the stereotype that women are weaker by nature. Rarely do we say “Strong man” when referring to successful leaders. The word “strong” wouldn’t be necessary if “women” meant inherently strong.

I want women in leadership to be normal. Both women and men shouldn’t have to act a certain way to be successful. I wish successful women in male-dominated fields was normal and accepted by everyone. I’m worried that glorifying female leaders continues to continue the belief that women leaders are rarely successful which may contribute to others not supporting women leaders or discourage other women from pursuing leadership positions.

 

https://www.fastcompany.com/3056246/how-our-idea-of-strong-women-unintentionally-hurts-female-leaders

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Responses

  1. Leading is often a thankless job, and I am sure many men and women would appreciate a shutout every now and then! You bring up a good point, that an excessive amount of praise can make something seem unusual – it could make it seem like women in leadership is inherently unnatural. Ironically, the purpose of excessive praise is to encourage involvement so it becomes more natural.
    It’s a catch-22. I think the best form of action is to praise specific actions of both genders. When a great act of leadership has been performed, it should be recognized, although the behind-the-scenes work leaders put in often goes unnoticed. However, since women are still somewhat of an anomaly in the leadership career field, I think it is important to reach out in more personal matters, as a type of support group, for further encouragement. This would keep public praise equal for both genders, and help normalize the idea of females in power. Simultaneously, it would continue to give women the extra push and encouragement that their hard work is appreciated by all.

  2. This is an interesting point and I a glad you brought it up! It seems that when people celebrate stong female leaders of succesful women the tone comes off almost as a suprise. Whereas for males it is expected and the tone is more of “when will it happen?” not “will it happen?” It is hard not to praise women for being successful and good leaders because of all the discrimantion and hardships women face to get there. So I think on one hand it is appropriate to celebreate and praise these women for their hardwork. However, if the goal is equality then why should we praise women leaders and see them as exceptional when we do not do the same for men.

    I like your point about when we say “strong” female leaders it is different than saying a strong male leader as women historically have been viewed as delicate. But this is not unusually. There are very strong women (in the conext of leadership) and weak men and vice versa. I think the key here is getting to that point of eqaulity and regonizing that there is not a set guidline to be a women or male leader becasue we are all individuals. The worl each leader puts in, regardless of gender, should be praised regardless of what past women of men do. We as a society are in the habit of comparing each other and things. However, this is dangerous and casues problems such as stong female leaders being viewed as an annomily.

  3. Hi Lauren!

    I think you bring up a really good point that I have not really thought about before. I think that praise can be a really good thing! It encourages individuals to take advantage of opportunities for leadership and it can push people to continue on the path for success. However, I think the problem lies within TOO MUCH praise, regardless of gender. In any situation, when an individual becomes dependent on praise/reward or starts to expect it, their drive for success becomes extrinsic rather than intrinsic. In addition, it reinforces the “everyone should get a trophy” idea and does not allow for differentiation between what people in leadership should be doing anyways and what is extraordinary.

    I agree with you in that there is a potential for this to take away from the normalization of women in power in that when women start to expect praise, and they don’t get it, they may feel discouraged and lack the desire to seek leadership roles. I think at one point, praise was necessary for any woman stepping into a leadership role because by society’s standards, she was doing something extraordinary. However, I think now is the time that we start to normalize women in power and give praise when those women go above and beyond. Otherwise, we continue to differentiate women from men and give females special treatment which only perpetuates the division of genders.

  4. It is an interesting point that I have noticed before but never put too much thought towards. It is true when we see a male leader that we do not think much of it and expect it. It is also true that when we see a female leader that some people may be caught off guard or not sure how to react. Normalizing leadership between genders should be the overall goal. The way to get there may be to not overly glorify all leaders. Their accomplishments are impressive but a pat on the back might be just as sufficient. Similar reactions to male and female leaders with equal respect, will begin to normalize having either gender as a leader. Give credit where credit is due but if we give extraordinary praise to one and not the other, then we just continue the separation of genders and leadership roles.

  5. This is an interesting thing to think about. I see what you are saying about “strong woman” being a negative thing to say about a woman. However, are men really not ever called “strong” either? I think this is simply a compliment. I think the double bind is contrary to women, but saying they are strong does not necessarily mean that you expect them not to be and that this is simply an exception. What’s important is the heart. If someone identifies a particular woman as strong or talented because they don’t think most women can be strong or talented than that is wrong. But I don’t think most men/women do that. Most people, in my opinion, simply compliment both genders by using positive adjectives. It should not be viewed as demeaning to women. If this is wrong, than what can we say about women? As a man, I always enjoy being complimented. I hope women do too. I desire both genders to be treated equally. The double bind is not fair to women, but complimenting women should not undermine females; it should encourage them.

  6. I think that this is a really complicated conversation. On one hand, women should receive positive reinforcement for going after their dreams and obtaining positions of leadership. On the other hand, it can also make other women and young girls apprehensive to pursue leadership positions because of the perception that only a few women are capable of achieving this sort of success. I think one thing that could be helpful is changing the language that we use when giving positive reinforcement. There is a difference between congratulating an individual for their accomplishments and praising them as if they are somehow a diamond in the rough/ have achieved something that others cannot. Maybe if we changed how we congratulate women who obtain leadership positions, it would serve to both be positive reinforcement to those women and encouragement for other women who also desire to engage in leadership positions in the future.

  7. I really enjoyed reading what you had to say! I think that this is a confusing topic because yes, women leadership should be normal but without encouragement how will we get there. I know personally that I am way more likely to apply for a position or go out of my comfort zone if I am encouraged to do so. I think that the leadership world is still very scary for women and any encouragement or support that we can show one another goes a long way. Especially since many men continue to put women down, not all men but a good portion of them. I don’t think we should idealize women in power as much as we tend to do, but I think support and encouragement is important. Being proud of women who are achieving things is important, after all, how could someone fail with such a big support system!

  8. Great perspective!! This is very fresh to our class as we have not talked about this aspect of feminism. We get caught up in the excitement of a women making it to the top and forget to consider that this SHOULD be normal and that if we overpraise it we are really making it seem abnormal. I think the best answer here is to meet somewhere in the middle. We need to put these women who have made it to the top in the media and on display for little girls to see so that we can normalize the image of a powerful, leading women. However, while we are doing this we should make sure to focus on other aspects of her career and leadership that do not relate to her gender and just trust that people will subconsciously praise her for being a women who has broken through the glass ceiling.
    If we are putting her in the media spotlight simply because she is a women, we are almost going against our feminism movement. Let’s put women leaders in the spotlight for all the things they are doing right in their profession and hardships of her career, not necessarily her gender.
    I also appreciate the angle the article took on about how we need to stop calling women “strong” or other masculine traits to define our worth. We do not need to be similar to men in order to be considered great at what we do.

  9. The realization that I see here is that women in leadership are not expected yet therefore we cannot normalize the cases until society chooses to. I think in order for this to happen in leadership, praise and reassurance of success need to be implemented to the extreme that not only motivates other women to reach higher, but facilitates within the individual receiving the accolades that all the hard work and push to break through glass ceiling was not for nothing and that she knows people around her are seeing the impact she is making for the better in turn making her happier and in the end giving her a purpose as to why she does what she does that leads to better leaders.

    I do not believe that encouraging the successful individual discourages other women watching at all. I think they see a path is being made by these females and it drives them to want to follow, to want to be the next Michelle Obama, or Ellen DeGeneres, or Angela Merkel! Now, with that being said… I also believe men should be applauded for their successes to because no matter who you are (female or male) it takes a lot of time, effort and dedication to work your way up the ranks and it is commendable, period. Women naturally have a harder time climbing up the hierarchical ladder so when they do then they should be admired for their achievements.

  10. This brings up a very good point and something I’ve been thinking a lot about to throughout this semester. I feel that in order for women in power to get the opportunities and titles they deserve, they need to be treated the same as men. I think this can have a small connection back to issues such as maternity leave however, and the idea that all opportunities for leave need to be open to both men and women.

    We’ve talked about the idea of men getting praise for taking care of their children, while women are simply expected to do it. Is this not the same thing? Why should a woman get praise for doing good work in her career while it is expected of man. It is a double standard that’s allowing for the continuation of sexism.

  11. I found this a compelling argument, and that inferring a woman to be “strong” can be seen as negative, but are men ever really told they are strong too? I think women should be complimented for their good work. Just like anyone should be complimented for their work, but this is not the reality we live in. I feel like you cannot read into something like this, you cannot associate it with a double bind in my opinion. Mostly because I don’t think calling someone talented has to do with a preconceived notion that I expect them not to be talented. I’m just simply stating their skill and should be noticed and complimented for it. However, I see how the tokenism can apply to a situation like this where we expect the minority of the group to far exceed and represent their minority.

  12. When I heard about this class, I was intrigued because I was thinking we’d learn about powerful leaders of history. I have also always had a positive view of women and thought having powerful women leaders was a normal and common thing. But through this class, I guess I’m pretty oblivious to many women’s conditions and how harsh the business world has been.
    My parents have always taught me to work hard towards my goals, no matter what obstacles I would face, and I try to keep a positive look on everything that I do. I am pretty ambitious, but that’s also because I have high personal goals. One of my friends asked me if I was interested in grad school, and I responded that I was. Now, he’s very passionate about women’s rights and everything, he’s also very supportive in everything I do, but his response was interesting (or it’s just me overthinking everything now because of this class haha). He told me he was glad I was thinking about grad school, but it felt like there was an undertone of “yes! You should definitely think about it especially because you’re a young woman and more women should strive for higher degrees.” Of course he didn’t say it out loud, but that’s automatically what my mind went to. If his response was to help me feel empowered as a woman, I already do…why would my sex matter in what I’m looking to accomplish? I’m sure his support was more for support and not because I’m a woman, I even chuckled that my thoughts almost got defensive.
    I could care less that I’m a woman seeking a higher position, but I care about how I can get the job done–efficiently, effectively, and in a way I can help society. I don’t need extra attention on my sex/gender. In fact, if people were to comment and focus more on me being a woman rather than what I actually did in the future if I had an incredibly high position, I might get upset because they wouldn’t be focusing on the bigger picture of how I’m trying to help society. Perhaps that’s just my leadership style, but I don’t need to be put on a pedestal. I’m fine with looking at women saying “wow, their accomplishments are incredible and their contribution to society is noteworthy and honorable.” The fact that they’re women is also cool, I’ll give them an air fist bump.
    I think praising leadership in general is something we should do. But if we start praising one sex, would that be the same as us commenting on women’s clothing choices instead of the women themselves? This is definitely an interesting topic.

  13. This concept of praising or normalizing is a very interesting concept that I have actually though about. When a woman comes into power, the woman is celebrated and called an icon. Rightly so, they should celebrated for making it because it is very hard- especially for women. The coverage and celebration makes other women more likely to try to follow in their footsteps because they see it as possible. This, however, also seems like we are giving women special treatment. Us celebrating it marks it as a special and rare event, but yet it needs to be covered. There will be no effect on the world if people aren’t aware of these changes- it will just go unnoticed. How do we normalize it when it needs coverage for it to be noticed?
    I do very much agree about the labels attached with women. People think they are doing women a favor by adding that they are strong, but it just implies that women can’t be naturally strong. This is also seen at CNU itself. If one has ever been to the basketball courts at CNU, the jumbo Tron that has the scores shows this second hand gender bias. Where the team mascot goes, they have “CAPTAINS” and then “LADY CAPTAINS.” While, it is great that they are recognizing women athletes, it just sets women athletes away from the men. Why? They aren’t any different. Are women naturally not captains? This is what it implies.
    A women can be described as strong or powerful, but it often comes across as labels that imply a women isn’t naturally that. Words need to be unisex, and words need to lose their connotation to specific genders.

  14. Id like to add to the male side of things when you said, “Rarely do we say “Strong man” when referring to successful leaders”. From a media standpoint we don’t see as much talk about males being strong today. I partly believe this to be true because of our focus on women and the move to clearly making it aware that females can be powerful. However, this isn’t always the case in all situations where people do have more traditional views. Now in my personal experience being a college student I see a little more of an equal playing field when it comes to recognition of strength. a majority of males my age do acknowledge if a female or male is a strong leader or individual. I do think we should continue to praise strong women and make them legitimate, but I don’t think this praise should be limited to only the most powerful. Women need to see leaders of all professions to lead as an example to push the future generations to follow in their footsteps.

  15. I think you have brought up a great point with this post. It is true, that in some ways by over-glorifying women leaders we are celebrating a rarity. I think it is important to carefully consider the ways we give support to one another. I think we should never stop reaching out to celebrate our women leaders, or our male leaders, that we think are doing a good job. It is difficult to get women in leadership positions, and they are already over-scrutinized. The least we can do is show our support for them in territory where there aren’t as many women representative. But I think we do need to be mindful of supporting their leadership, their strength as a human being, their strong example as a person. We can also use feminine adjectives to compliment them, and should, in my opinion. If we only resort to using the typical masculine adjectives as compliments, then we are effectively undermining feminine attributes in doing so. However, there is power in associations. The more we speak out about the strength of females in our lives, the more that association is going to stick and become part of the culture.


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