November 30, 2011
Shed the Stereotype!
“They’re always emotional. They’re great multi-taskers. They don’t promote other women.” Everyone from our PINK bloggers to Anna Wintour is talking about stereotypes of female leaders.
Unfortunately, when such labels are applied, it can put women’s careers at risk.
“This doesn’t happen to every woman, but a greater percentage of women than men get stereotyped,” says Suzanna Bates, author of Discover Your CEO Brand.
“When this happens, the conversation becomes not how to promote them, but whether they can be ‘fixed.’” Research shows leadership is still seen as a predominantly masculine role, with women viewed as less qualified or natural in these positions.
How can female leaders combat stereotypes?
Bates says female leaders are often labeled as “a bitch, too quiet or politically clueless.” Those in the first category may want to focus more on communicating and listening to employees’ ideas and thoughts.
"You can be results oriented and hold people accountable without leaving bodies in your wake,” she adds. More reserved leaders can take initiative to speak up and give ideas, even writing points down for a meeting beforehand.
“For those who still have chips on your shoulders – lose them,” advises Lori Cohen, chair of Greenberg Traurig's Pharmaceutical, Medical Device & Healthcare Litigation Group. She says a “true to yourself” management style is what makes a good leader. And “think about the three H’s: humanity, humility and honesty.”
Others say it comes back to authenticity, rather than projecting a ‘mean girl’ persona or trying to be one of the guys. “Women may always feel the need to work harder and prove themselves,” adds Cohen.
“There’s nothing more important than finding the right support network amongst your peers and those who paved the way before you."
Bonus PINK Link: Find out how one woman conquered sexism, found success and learned to live past her limits in our online exclusive.
By Caroline Cox
“As we light a path for others, we naturally light our own way.”
Mary Anne Radmacher
*Supporting images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Ambro, scottchan, and photostock.