Female Bosses: Stereotypes and Challenges

It can be frustrating pushing the glass ceiling and proving yourself worthy of taking the reins only to find you come up against a gender wall. Although we have made great strides in gender equality in the workplace, sadly, there are still many stereotypes that remain (unfairly in many cases) for the female boss. The urban legends that surround a strong woman in leadership come with preconceptions of aggression, fierce, unapproachable, dangerous and condescending dragons. This is a complex image to break and one of the challenges we need to overcome.

“I don’t think a woman should be in any government job whatever. I mean, I don’t. The reason why I do is mainly that they are erratic. And emotional. Men are erratic and emotional, too, but the point is a woman is more likely to be”–President Richard Nixon (Clymer, 2001)

The Truth

When it comes to leadership, we need to get the message out there that strong managers come in all shapes and sizes, male and female alike. Just 20 years ago, President Nixon showed a complete misunderstanding of women in power. President Biden rectified this appointed Kamala Harris as his Vice President, making her the first woman and the first woman of colour to hold that post.

So, times are changing! With the traits mentioned above, a bad boss is simply someone without the skills irrespective of gender. Sadly not everyone has read the memo, and you may still come across some stereotypes as a woman in power. So, how do we address this inequality and demonstrate that true leadership has nothing to do with gender?

Overcoming the Challenges

So, what can you do to overcome the stereotypes that will shadow your career? Take inspiration from these two successful women!

“As a leader, it’s a major responsibility on your shoulders to practise the behaviour you want others to follow.” — Himanshu Bhatia, Founder and CEO, Rose International.

Lead by Example

Begin by modelling the behaviours you want to see from others. Ignore the jibs, the cold shoulders and the preconceptions and demonstrate how you know a good leader behaves. Be warm, be approachable and most of all, be a team player. Bad leaders sit back and bark orders; good leaders can be found in the trenches getting their hands dirty. These are the leaders that are respected.

“The world’s most prominent women leaders show the importance of honesty, courage, impact, and decisive action in leadership.”—Oprah Winfrey, (Media Executive and Philanthropist)

Be Courageous and Impactful

When you are appointed to a leadership position, it means that you have demonstrated your skill and impressed the hiring committee. So make sure you are courageous and impactful in your daily work. Do not shrink away but rise to the challenges you are presented with. Sadly you will encounter double standards and come up against jealously from men and women alike but do not let that throw you off your stride. Let your talent shine through and approach everything with honesty; it is ok to ask your team for help, but the buck stops with you, so be decisive.