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Dare to … be a female leader

Source | LinkedIn : By Alina Gales

In 2010, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg gave a TED Talk titled “Why we have too few women leaders” (7 million views). The presentation eventually led her to author her bestselling book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” (published in 2013, ca. 3 million copies sold). In the book, she expresses her concerns that not enough women hold leading positions in the professional, corporate or political industries. She presents arguments to studies that indicate that success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women, which is why a lot of women don’t dare to thrive for a leadership position.

When people talk about the statistics of men/women ratio in parliament and on high corporate level (C-seats, board-seats), oftentimes I hear: “Why do we even have to talk about this? Most women obviously don’t wish to pursue a career. If they really wanted to, they could!”. When I hear this argument, I start to wonder: Why is it that most women supposedly don’t want to pursue a career and occupy a very high position? After all, at university level in Germany, the men/women ratio of students and graduates is about 50%, but only 29% of leading positions are held by women19,7% in supervisory boards and 6,3% in executive boards.

I do not think the desire to pursue a career is inherently male or female. It is rather a question of society and culture. Research shows that men attribute their success to themselves and women attribute it to other external factors. How often have you heard a women receiving a compliment excusing herself with comments such as “I got lucky”, “someone helped me”, “I worked really hard”?

In my opinion, there are a combination of many factors that contribute to this issue: girls and boys are raised differently (we put more pressure on boys to perform better, reach high and work more), we talk about successful women more negatively than successful men and a long-hours-working mother is not applauded but pitied – and also very rare. Alas, there are just not enough examples of female leaders.

I would like to hear your opinion: What do you think are the reasons why so many women don’t want to pursue a career and a very high position? Or is it that there are actually way more women that would like to but just can’t, due to various reasons?

And yes, I do think we should talk about this situation “because no one gets to the corner office by sitting on the side, not at the table; and no one gets the promotion if they don’t think they deserve their success, or they don’t even understand their own success” (Sheryl Sandberg).

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