8 Popular But Misleading Stereotypes of Women in Power

March 6, 20172:00 pm1114 views

“Have you met our new marketing manager? I heard she’s fierce! At one point of time, she got angry with her staff just because he fetched her the wrong coffee type. Can you imagine that?” Well, such gossips do make rounds in every office, especially indicating towards employee behaviours or perhaps a mental wall built towards acceptance of a senior woman leader at the helm.

International Labour Organisation notes that in 2015, global women labour force is 49.6 percent, which means that almost half of women population in the world is going to work. On the other hand, World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2016 highlights that women’s economic opportunity is only 59 percent compared to their fellow male workers.

These statistics demonstrate that women’s participation in the workforce is showing positive trend from year to year. Unfortunately, it seems that women still need to go through long way down to achieve equal opportunity to the path of leadership. Even when women successfully rise to senior managerial roles, they have to face unpleasant and fallacious rumours revolving around their leadership stereotypes.

Traditionally stereotyped as a follower than leader, women who hold more power above their male peers must face the demeaning stereotypes. Some of the stereotypes are popular and prevalent in our daily life, as the society keeps perpetuating them through media. Here are 8 most popular, but often misleading, tropes of women in power:

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  1.    They are seen as cold and heartless

Women who hold key directional positions in a company are generally seen as cold and heartless. Media has always presented this stereotype through one of The Devil Wears Prada characters, Miranda Priestly, who is depicted as a cold woman who gives no mercy to her staff.

  1.    They have to look masculine

Being in a position which is conventionally filled with men, women leaders are required to look masculine. Not only should they physically look like men, women are required to act like them, too.

An example can be seen from Margaret Thatcher ‘the Iron Lady’ (the term referring to stereotype number 1), who worked with a theatre coach to change her light and feminine tone into deeper and more masculine timbre.

  1.    They are seen as women who know no love

People believe that women who climb to higher leadership levels have to sacrifice everything, including their family and personal lives. Owing to this false conviction, women in power are typically seen as a single old maid who know no love. Miranda Priestly of The Devil Wears Prada, once again, represents this stereotype. Being in her mature age, Miranda’s marriage is shattered as the husband, Stephen, divorced her.

  1.    They make bad decisions

There is common belief that men use their logics to solve things, while women tend to use their emotions. Whereas, you cannot just rely on emotional insights to arrive at the right, meaningful, and crucial decisions. Owing to this stereotype, women are generally seen as bad decision-makers.

  1.    They are seen as being too emotional

To be a leader, people need a strong and tough heart, a character often associated with men. So can a leader show their emotions? Well, the answer can be ‘yes’ and ‘no’. When John McCain shed tears during his 2008 US presidential campaign, public saw the tears as a form of showing sympathy.

However, when Hillary Clinton shed the same tears, media called it as a sign of weakness and fragility. This double standard on trivial issues such as tears showcase, how women in power can also be seen as being too emotional.

  1.    They have cunning characters

Basically, women are not favoured to possess higher job roles than men. The reason is simple, the idea of powerful women is intimidating for most men. No wonder that women who hold power are generally perceived as cunning individuals, whose means to accomplish their goals are always justified.

  1.    They are taken as a mere ‘cheerleader’

Women with power are often seen as a mere cheerleader to ‘amuse’ the rest of the group members. Women who possess feminine, kind-hearted, and warm traits, are often not taken seriously when they get into senior leadership positions. One of the examples can be seen in Sarah Palin, former Alaskan beauty queen who was widely-held as ‘all-American cheerleader’ during her 2008 vice presidential campaign.

  1.    They will never be as good as their male counterparts

Since most of your co-workers are male, it is easy for a woman leader to be belittled. To be recognised and respected, woman leaders should give more efforts, to prove they are as good as their male counterparts.

Either you choose to comply with it or not, stereotypes towards women in power do exist. And the problem is, not only are these stereotypes easily-believed and accepted, they are powerful as well.

Stereotypes create an invisible barrier between ‘the perception about someone’ and ‘their real characters and qualities’. Therefore, it becomes everyone’s homework to find out the right approach to deal with these unceasing stereotypes and misconceptions engraved on minds. Such that the women in power will not be discouraged to pursue their vision relentlessly, and thus realise a better and equivalent career opportunity to all sans the gender-divide.

Read also: More Unpaid Infant-care Leave Offered to Parents Working in Public Sector from July 2017

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