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Common Sense And Female Leadership In The Workplace Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Adeshola, Nigeria Apr 16, 2007
Human Rights , Gender Equality , Corporate Social Responsibility   Opinions
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"'Watch the way you talk to me, you are a woman if you don’t know.' I forbid her to talk carelessly to me; I have a woman like her at home. Boss my foot! She is no different from any other woman out there, always nagging at work. It’s obvious that that’s the real reason her husband left her for another woman."

I could go on and on but there’s no need to because the issue I talk about, or will be talking about today, is all around us. It abounds in most corporate organisations. Conservatively, I’ll put the percentage at 85.

I think a strong case ought to be made for women who have to brave all workplace odds to emerge as corporate leaders in spite of being the bread winners of the very discriminating organisations they serve.

Interestingly, while companies in the U.S. and Europe are making frantic efforts to rid their system of such counterproductive sentiments, the corporate setting we have found ourselves in, in Nigeria today, seems to be going in the opposite direction. In Nigeria, the glaring index of the number of women who rise to the position of CEO, only stands as a testimony to our men's beliefs that "what a man can do, a woman can do no better." How then do we women move forward when when it comes to high corporate positions, we are sidelined for the amusement of men's age-long egocentricity?

It is easy to notice women's place in corporations. Of course our offices are either on the third floor, "Human Resources," where we are expected to play our traditional motherly role, or the fourth floor, "Corporate Affairs," where we are expected to use our 'God-given' charm to manage one public crises after another. I keep asking: How inaccessible could the last floor or pent house be for women? Surely, for a woman that has all it takes to lead an organisation, all she requires to get there should be the little knowledge of how the lift or staircase works.

Could it be that the men out there really feel threatened by women? And if so, what really is the threat? I say this because I was taught to believe that corporate goals come ahead of any personal or collectively unspoken goal. And after all is said and done, regardless of how adaptable some women may be, to the men, women are still regarded as inferior. Even when they attempt to behave exactly like their male counterparts, they are still perceived in the same light. Marilyn Loden describes this phenomenon in her book "Feminine Leadership". Below I have adapted the excerpts from her list of catch-22.

How To Tell A Male Leader From A Female Leader

•A businessman is aggressive; a businesswoman is pushy

•A businessman pays attention to detail; a businesswoman is picky

•A businessman loses his temper at times because he is so involved in his work; a businesswoman is bitchy

•He knows how to follow through; she doesn’t know when to quit

•He stands firm; she is hard

•He is a man of the world; she’s been around

•He isn’t afraid to say what he thinks; she is mouthy

•He’s a stern taskmaster; she is hard to work for

Maybe I should make a few additions of my own:

•He has a good dress sense; she loves to be noticed

•He is friendly with the guys; she needs a man in her life!

I’m sure by now you would have one two examples of your own. But over the years, various studies by renowned experts on leadership, have clearly shown that there are no fundamental differences between the way men and women lead. Men have always strived to prove the point that women are too compassionate to lead, as if compassion where a negative leadership trait. And the result of this is often that women leave senior and middle level management positions to become unwilling entrepreneurs.

I must at this point commend the effort of WIMBIZ (Nigeria’s most visible corporate women -umbrella and advocate body) for their efforts over the years at tackling this problem. Even if we may not see the immediate gains, at least somebody is talking. That is the way to go.

Other Ways To Go

•Organisations should have the issue of gender discrimination conspicuously addressed in their CORPORATE CONSTITUTIONS

•Human Resource departments should do a customized communication and leadership audit, particularly as it relates to gender differences in productivity levels

•Women should stop struggling to convince men of their competence and rather seek out creative ways to get the message across

•Women should expand their communication skills to facilitate their own advancement

•Women should have a personal vision to own world-class companies where the culture of mutual respect and opportunity is ingrained.

•Women's organisations should continuously and as a matter of urgency raise the issue of work inequality among gender via debates and other knowledge programmes

•Especially in Nigeria, women should take training programmes on Active Leadership seriously. It is one thing to desire leadership, it is another thing to lead.

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Adeshola Komolafe
Email: adesholakomolafe@yahoo.com
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