Powerful Women

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Women in positions of leadership is a topic being discussed more and more as women continue to take on higher positions or roles throughout our society. Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State, Marissa Mayer now Yahoo’s CEO, Oprah Winfrey head of Harpo Studios are several of the powerful elite female leaders of our time. The issue still at hand is that for women the climb to leadership positions that would or could be occupied by a male are still controversial.  In both the Fortune 5oo and Fortune 1000 list of companies women only hold 4.2 percent of the CEO positions on both list. Out of 1.4 million women serving in the military there are only two female four star generals. Ann E. Dunwoody was nominated in 2008 and Janet Wolfenbarger was nominated in 2012 to replaced Dunwoody when she stepped down.

     This week a major hurdle in the road for women trying to fight their way up the military ranks was cleared by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s decision to allow women in combat positions/units. Men have stereotypically been thought to be the stronger sex and physically battle ready between the two sexes. Having men holding the physical dominance created the framework for the exclusion of women in combat positions, women just were thought to be too weak. Many military officials felt that having the weaker females on the front line would put the men in harms way. The thought was that the males sense of chivalry would have put stress on a male soldier with his sense of need to watch out for the perceived less capable female.

     In Panetta’s opening the combat positions to women has helped to put one more ding in the glass ceiling for women. He has opened the door for women to serve in leadership positions within the military that until now have been closed to them. The exclusion of women in combat positions kept women out of many leadership positions because combat experience is a pre-requisite to rise to many of the upper level positions within the military. Allowing women this opportunity is something many men frown upon while others feel it is bringing equality to the military, ““This puts women at every level of the military,” says Greg Jacob, policy director at the Service Women’s Action Network. “It ensures you have the best person in leadership positions regardless of their sex. If the best sniper is a woman, it should be her in the role.” (Goudreau, 2013)

     In the article, “Gender and the Evaluation of Leaders: A Meta-Analysis,” Alice H. Eagly, Mona G. Makhijani of Purdue University and Bruce G. Klonsky at State University of New York at Fredonia take on the evaluation of men and women who occupy leadership roles. They compiled numerous studies on gender and leadership. The method used was gathering leadership studies, variables were coded from each study, computation and analysis of effect sizes, they then analyzed studies by the characteristics of each study, dividing them in to central tendencies of the characteristics. Several examples of these characteristics were, published relatively recently, had a majority of male authors, used leader’s competence as a dependent variable. After computing all of this information they created models of the information.


    The study generally predicts that female leaders are evaluated somewhat more negatively than their male counterparts. The study took moderating variables into account citing that a female leader with gender-role congruency style may be reviewed more positively than a female leader with a masculine leadership style.  In contrast males in leadership roles are rarely evaluated as to their feminine or masculine leadership style. Their styles are less consequential in their evaluation as a leader because their leadership is not viewed as problematic, it is considered legitimate if it is in combination with a generally satisfactory level of competence.

     The article, “Gender and the evaluation of Leaders,” gave into the idea of taking more variables into consideration when evaluating gender and leadership. We could also use this method when considering the issue of allowing women in military combat roles. The females in the military have the basic role conflict between woman and soldier. Because of gender stereotypes, men do not have the role conflict between man and soldier; these roles are the social norm for a male. Also, the females in the military are evaluated by their feminine or masculine approach to job requirements and activities, while their male counterparts are only being evaluated for their actual job performance not their approach.