Breedlove's Briefing: Traditionally Feminine Leadership Traits Are Seen as Nice “Add-Ons” – But Unnecessary

January 7 - Stephanie Breedlove

Hi! I’m Stephanie Breedlove, Co-Founder of HomePay, Author and Angel Investor.

I absolutely adore taking an idea and giving it life in the form a business, then leading it to its full potential. Nothing is more fun. (Seriously!) I’d love for every woman who wants to start her own business to say the same thing, so here I am, mentoring millennial entrepreneurs. When I’m not working, I like to recharge and head outdoors to hike, bike, or stand up paddle board!

Is that list of business news and trending articles you’ve tagged still unread? I get it. Allow me to help. Take a couple minutes to read my summary of articles serving the most pertinent, actionable business topics. Or, take 10 minutes to read the full article, and put another brick on the foundation of your growing career.

This Week’s Must-Read:

Traditionally Feminine Leadership Traits Are Seen as Nice “Add-Ons” – But Unnecessary

Who it’s for:

Women, men, businesses leaders. Knowledge is power, but…ugh.

Why it’s important:

The more we learn, the more difficult it gets to sort out all of the new data and use it effectively. But we’ll get there. Knowledge is power for good decision making.

According to a new paper published in Frontiers in Psychology, patience and tolerance are just bells and whistles. Stereotypically feminine leadership traits, like kindness and sensitivity to others’ needs, are viewed as unnecessary “add-ons.” Conversely, stereotypically masculine traits, like competence and assertiveness, are considered more defining and essential to a leadership role. The studies may shed light on why women remain scarce in leadership roles, despite much research touting the benefits of qualities like empathy. It is helpful to shed light on why there’s still so much work to do.

Communal traits – the traits we often associate with women, including tolerance, cooperation and kindness – are attributes that are just seen as nonessential for leaders. They’re valued, but they’re not really valued to the extent to which more traditionally masculine traits are valued – which is admittedly very depressing, considering in particular the scarcity of women in leadership positions. This bias in favor of more masculine traits appears to play a role in the longstanding underrepresentation of women in top leadership positions.

Participants in the studies tended to value the more stereotypically feminine characteristics only after the requirements of stereotypically masculine characteristics had been fulfilled. Women tended to prefer leaders with more of a balance between competence and communality, while men tended to more strongly favor competence. Both men and women saw competence and assertiveness as relatively more vital to leaders’ success.

Women who have internalized these stereotypically masculine expectations of leaders might shy away from pursuing top leadership. If women see leadership as primarily involving today’s socially accepted traits, then one possibility is they will not be interested in pursuing top roles – which basically would reduce or limit the number of women in the pool of people being considered for such roles.

So how do we break the cycle? The study suggests that mentors and role models could help move the needle. Seeing more women in these types of positions would be a huge help (validation for the great work On The Dot is doing!)

Top Take-Away/Final Thought: Data has proven leadership traits that are quintessentially female generate successful outcomes, but both men and women now have to perceive this to be true. We’ve got work to do.

Need more powerful knowledge? Here’s an additional dose:

Unnecessary Frills: Communality Nice (But Expendable) Trait in Leaders

Corporate America Is Wasting Years of Female Leadership Potential

14 Things Every Company Should Do To Help Women Advance at Work

Why the Number of Women CEOs Dropped 25% from Last Year

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