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Gender and Leadership: The 'Likability' Dilemma


A short write-up on the perception of gender within leadership roles in the workplace.



Gender and Leadership have a stronger, more pivotal connection that might be realized on a general level. Within the human race, societal normalities, predicated on the physical and mental traits that may be more specifically oriented towards one gender or the other, have become more and more prevalent within the 21st century, while also less readily evident. While gender stereotypes were much more easy to see in the 20th century, where a woman takes care of the house and the child and the man works in the factory to keep the house heated as showcased in advertisements and propaganda, sexism is much more subtle and unconscious in the present. It is linked within generations and generations of teaching and guidance by those that came before us.

Robin Hauser in her TED talk regarding the ‘likability dilemma’ among female leaders provides strong examples and concrete evidence regarding how women who have supposedly ‘masculine’ traits are less likable than men who have the same traits. To the majority of men, her example of a male coworker refusing to explain his “complicated position” in his office might come off as ridiculous– he is not showcasing sexism, that was just his simplistic, lazy answer. But, Robin provides the point that this answer may have merely been the latter, but was still produced because of ingrained, unconscious sexism and bias still present within us all. He would

have been more likely to explain his position to someone who could more readily understand it, such as another man. Upon hearing this outlook, I raised one eyebrow and my stagnant blood began to rise, just a little. I thought the accusation was slightly ridiculous, but only because I do my best to maintain a neutral approach. I attempt to maintain the outlook that leadership can be instilled within anyone and everyone, identity forgone. My stagnant blood probably began to rise only because Robin is right.

As a man, I am not in position to say that I can easily relate to Robin’s place, but I do understand her frustration. The madness that it would take from men to forever dissolve ingrained sexism is absurd to most. Until it is not, will we be stuck in the same boat that affects both genders. Women seek to not be received with a state of shock, or be labeled as aggressive when they stand their ground, and men seek to not be labeled sexist when their intentions were anything but. It will take equal effort from both sides in order to realize a more equal future for women among leadership positions.


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