Ilene Lang Shares Thoughts on Gender Impact on Leadership
Ilene Lang - Interview - Catalyst
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There is more difference, more variation in behaviors and leadership characteristics and in general between individual men or individual women than there is between women and men as a gender. What that means is that gender is not a predictor of very much when it comes to leadership effectiveness or the ability to accomplish work and to do it well and to do it and to be a leader. Gender is more of a predictor of height than it is of leadership. I like to say that a lot and it's true, you know. So ... but you know, this is all based on statistics and it's based on very large samples but what we see over and over and over again is that the stereotyping of women puts them in positions where if they're either too tough or too soft but never just right. That's one of the dilemmas we talk about in this new study. We call it the Goldilocks dilemma, right, but it's too tough, too soft but never just right. So if the woman is too tough then people don't like her. They call her names. They don't accept aggressive behavior, they do for men but they don't for women. Now there are cultures, corporate cultures where aggressive behavior is not accepted from anybody, so I'm just saying in general that's the kind of thing. Women are expected to be soft, so they... and they're expected to be caregivers and caretakers, so people turn to women for jobs when they think, oh we need a den mother, oh, we need somebody who is going to be you know supportive to others, who's going to rally around the team, who doesn't care about putting herself first, you know, men can be ambitious but women, that's frowned upon if they're ambitious. So there are a lot of those things. So back to the question of do we women... how do they feel about power, that's junk. It's absolute junk. There's a whole big industry where lots of books are written about you know, 'Men are from Mars and Women from Venus' and 'Women can't negotiate'. Why is that so terrific for people? Well because lots of companies and women pay a lot of money to send women to negotiating classes. So there's an industry around that. There's a vested interest in it but one reason that women may not come out on top when it comes to negotiation around salary or power or whatever, is because the deck is stacked against them before they even start, because of the expectations. It's just ... you know, that's another hypothesis which is just as credible and probably more credible than that there's something intrinsically female that makes a woman non-ambitious. If she is or if she's aggressive she learns if she wants to be successful. She has to hide all of it. So she hides it. She swallows it and maybe she doesn't get as much money as she thinks she deserves but she gets more than she would get if she were too aggressive.