On Gender Stereotypes and Leadership

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Globally, there is a large gender discrepancy in executive roles. There is no single country in the world where there are as many female CEOs as male CEOs. Compared to many other countries, Thailand has been successful in having more females in leadership roles. For example, according to UN Women, 32% of senior leadership positions in Thailand are held by women, and Thailand has the world’s highest percentage of female CFOs and third-highest percentage of female CEOs. While this ratio is the result of progressive work towards gender equality and should not go unappreciated, (the global average of women in senior leadership position is 27%), the gender proportion in executive roles is still far from equal both in Thailand and globally.

Needless to say, women have historically been put at an economic, political, and social disadvantage, which serves as a contributing factor in the underrepresentation of women in executive roles today. However, the psychological aspect to this, namely gendered biases and prejudices, should also be considered when approaching and dealing with issues of gender equality in the workplace.

Women’s supposed emotional instability is often used as a reason to reject or undercut women’s potential as leaders. During the Hilary Clinton presidential campaign, Cheryl Rios made an infamous statement that a woman should not be president due to their hormones being different from men, implying that women have “raging hormones” that prevent them from making rational decisions.

Statements like these are not uncommon, and often come from a place of lack of research or valid evidence. An American psychologist’s review of meta analyses has revealed that, out of 76 reports that measure leadership effectiveness, no significant gender gap was found. However, the meta analyses also found that female leaders who were seen as uncaring were at a greater disadvantage than were male leaders portrayed in the same way. This is most likely the case because of the reasoning that women should be caring and nurturing and are seen in a negative light when they are assertive.

Women are perfectly capable of being effective leaders. The hormones are not the problem; the stereotyping and the benevolent sexism is. This is why we need to educate not only women, but also men, that the gender gap in executive roles – as well as other domains such as STEM fields – has nothing to do with actual biological differences; that, rather, it is the gender-biased statements and preconceptions that prevent female empowerment and gender equality. People can unknowingly make prejudgments and claim justification for gender inequality. Center for Girls works to pave the path for female leadership and fight through these biases and systemic discrimination.

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