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How Women Can Battle the Stereotypes

How Women Can Battle the Stereotypes

Susan Aaron, Monster Learning Coach

A few short decades ago, many thought a woman couldn’t be president, because she would become emotionally unstable once a month — as if she’d hit the red button during a chocolate craving.

There have been many misconceptions about women leaders over the years. Here’s advice from an expert and women in the field about the state of some classic stereotypes and how to battle them.

Women Are Not Assertive Enough to Lead

According to a 2000 study conducted by The Winds of Change Foundation in collaboration with the Center for Research on Women at Wellesley College, most of the 60 preeminent female leaders who responded, including leaders in industry, medicine and law, are results-focused but are also interested in growth of the people around them and employ a democratic approach to leadership. “Whether or not it is put into actual practice, the ascendancy of the democratic, people-oriented leadership practice forms the contemporary context of leadership today,” the study says.

What's your U.S Women's History IQ?

1. In 1848, the U.S. Womens Rights Movement issued a statement calling for equality with men. What was it called?

The Declaration of Sentiments
The Declaration of Equality
The Proclamation of Rights

Marystephanie Corsones, former director for international business acquisition for Coopers Lybrand and current director of support programs for City Schools in Kingston, New York, would agree with these results. She says that as a leader, she tries to build consensus.

Sally Helgesen, a lecturer and consultant on issues of work and leadership and author of The Female Advantage: Women’s Ways of Leadership, sees many businesswomen leading from the center and focusing on relationships.

Katina Paron, editorial and program director of Children’s PressLine, notes that when leading, “men are more likely to go at it alone,” while she prefers to spend her meetings talking through issues.

Of course, to say that women should stick to certain behaviors because of their gender is unfairly restrictive. “I think male and female leadership styles are becoming more similar [as] men and women’s lives become more similar, and organizations achieve a better balance between women and men,” Helgesen says.

Female Leaders Must Act Like Men

“In the early ‘80s, women were encouraged to learn the language of football so they could communicate as leaders –– even if they didn’t care a thing about the sport,” says Helgesen.

Corsones, who entered the workforce in the late ’60s, says this male miming happened even earlier, because “business culture was dominated by men, and the rules that existed were the rules created by men.”

Men are no longer the only role models. Paron credits a retreat and networking group from the Woodhull Institute as a source of empowerment. Corsones is a member of the American Association of University Women and helps women in business through her local YWCA.

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