What does a Gender Inclusive Leader Look Like?
Diversity and Inclusion
Before we can begin to break down what a gender-inclusive leader is, first we need to understand what we associate with an effective leader, and more importantly, why we associate certain traits with an effective leader.
This may seem like a tedious and possibly an unimportant task, but have you ever stopped to wonder why some traits are held in higher regard than others?
Probably not, and that’s okay! But let’s dig a little deeper.
Does Leadership Have a Gender?
A substantial amount of research has identified that traits that we associate with good leadership are often associated with stereotypical masculine attributes.
Ewa Wojtowicz wrote an interesting research article titled "Stereotypes in Management - Does Leadership Have a Gender?", where she explored the unconscious interrelation between the traits of an effective leader and the traits commonly associated with men and masculinity. For example, assertiveness.
Similarly, Anna Wahl’s (2014) paper titled Male Managers Challenging and Reinforcing the Male Norm in Management also looks at the masculine norm in management styles, identifying the presence of generalised masculine traits in successful leaders.
Why is this problematic?
Stereotypes influence attributes assigned to groups and creates the assumption that some groups are more predisposed to certain activities. So if stereotypically female traits are associated with poor leadership, it can create an assumption that females are lesser or poor leaders.
What my research found - Irish IT Industry
Using the research that we discussed above, I decided to take a poll to see what leadership traits the Irish IT Industry associates with a good leader. We took the answers from 230 individuals who work in the IT industry in Ireland (25.2% of the respondents were women and 74.8% were men).
Stereotypically gendered leadership traits;
Now, looking at the graph and chart below can be a bit overwhelming, and I could talk about the percentages and cross-examination for hours. But what kind of a blog does that? So let’s pick out 5 interesting findings.
The results indicated 5 main points:
Females associate both stereotypically male and female traits with good leadership
A majority of males only associated stereotypically male traits with good leadership
Males showed more variety in what traits they associate with good leadership while females showed more uniformity in their answers
Male respondents were more likely to choose between 1-3 traits, whereas most female respondents chose 3+ traits
There was not 1 trait with a majority vote, the highest agreed upon trait was Action-Oriented with 44.78% of respondents
So what do we take away from this?
It’s important for managers, regardless of their gender, to display a range of leadership traits in order to be gender inclusive.
Both male and female professionals value similar leadership traits, but female professionals tend to value variety. Although male professionals were less likely to select stereotypically female traits, it does not mean that they would not value them in a leader, but females proved to expect more from their leaders.
This means that even though assertiveness is held in high regard, it does not mean that it is the only trait that a manager should present, also being fair and empathetic will make their leadership style more inclusive to all genders.
It’s important to remember that there is no 1 definition of a good leader, so I will leave you with a quote from John Quincy Adams "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."
As a team, we hope to continue writing about gender-inclusive leadership and initiatives. We fully welcome and encourage you to share any feedback, questions or personal experiences! Send us your questions here.
Cover image attribution: Delegation vector created by pch.vector - www.freepik.com