Gender and Racial Differences in Approaching Leadership

Posted on October 5, 2008. Filed under: Academic Publishings |

A leader does not have to fly on a straight-path to management to become successful in his or her field. There are many variables in which success can be realized, but as previous research has suggested, there are many inherent road blocks for women and minorities in achieving their goals. One evaluative method of leadership is found through each individual. The notion of realizing business success varies among others, so before diving into what it means to be a leader, I would like to briefly discuss success. “Career success has been measured by objective variables such as earnings, level of position in the organizational hierarchy, and rate of advancement or promotion…careers are deemed successful in relation to their receiving more pay, holding positions at higher levels, and advancing at a faster rate (185).” This traditional perspective is assigned to the expectations of most men and thus, the expectation from all, to follow in order to hold managerial and executive positions.

However, objective variables do not equate end-all success and happiness. “Career success also measured by subjective variables that reflect individual’s satisfaction with various aspects of their work and non-work lives, including their current job, potential for advancement, job security, relationships with family members, and opportunities to pursue hobbies and other personal interests (185).” So what is important to consider is that, according to previous research, many women pursue successful careers through the subjective, with emphasis on social development and satisfaction. These gender differences will affect the way they approach similar situations and what is equally if not more important, how others will view gender behavior in relation to the traditional subjective approach.

The traditional view of leadership is evaluated alongside success. If minorities suffer from access discrimination and are unable to obtain managerial positions, their understanding or approach to leadership development may vary among races and gender. “The stereotype of a successful career, largely based on the experiences of [white non-Hispanic] men, focuses on uninterrupted work. Time away from work…is often assumed to lead to deterioration of skills and knowledge and to reflect less commitment to work (188).” What I would like to have seen this chapter focus on, was the racial make-up of full and part-time employees. I’m anticipating finding significantly higher rates of part-time working single mothers or for less educated working people, which may be the Black and Hispanic populations.

As alluded to earlier, if women and minorities encounter access discrimination, their opportunities in developing their professional experience are limited. “In stretch assignments, managers learn to handle a variety of responsibilities in the spotlight and under fire. Male managers are more likely to receive these assignments (189).” What is interesting is that minority women suffer from a double-count, or rather, the 2-strike rule, where they receive less attention and benefits because they are both minorities and women. Traditional managers make assumptive decisions by assuming women will want less challenging positions because they need to handle their domestic affairs as well, which automatically grants men with the more challenging and career-oriented opportunities.

On average, men also receive more on-the-job training than women, making their job experiences more attractive. In addition to job training, women also experience access discrimination for mentorship opportunities. “Males are sent to a greater number of formal training programs and off-site development activities and receive greater financial support from their employers for outside educational programs (e.g., part-time BMA) than females (190).” These mentor programs provide employees with access to executives, opportunities, and more challenging projects, however, women suffer from both access and treatment discrimination, inhibiting their ability to develop their leadership and managerial skills.

This chapter highlights several problem areas that women and female minorities must overcome in order to remain competitive in the job market. It provides insight into access and treatment of women and minorities and the direct relationship with leadership. Those who experience access and treatment discrimination have a different perspective on leadership because their experiences require work above-and-beyond that of their male counterparts. Men will have a more direct access to management and leadership opportunities whereas women must ‘zigzag’ and work harder to achieve the same goals. This reading does support my assumptions and readings.

Powell, Gary N. and Laura M. Graves. Women and Men in Management. 3rd Edition. Sage Publications. 2003. Chapter 8. Pgs. 183-210.

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One Response to “Gender and Racial Differences in Approaching Leadership”

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A thorough overview of an important topic. How can management avoid these biases?


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