Women Leaders are Strong as Hell

| March 25, 2015 | 0 Comments

Women Strong as HellCopyright©2015 Elle Allison-Napolitano All Rights Reserved.

Human Beings possess incredibly reliable adaptive systems that allow them to absorb, process, and bounce back from life’s vicissitudes. Beautifully, resilience is common and it works for all of us.

Because I’m interested in the nature of resilience in leadership however, I’m often asked if resilience is different for men and women in leadership roles. The completely honest answer of course, is I can’t say, for certain. What I do know is that highly resilient leaders, men and women alike, have access to at least three assets they can draw upon in times of adversity:

1. Strong and diverse networks of people who have their back, who provide them with resources, and who open doors for them.

2. Opportunities for renewal that come in the form of new and enriching opportunities and challenges.

3. An empowered voice, characterized by its ability to advocate, persuade and inspire others.

Certainly In the global public, we see exemplars of both genders who have cultivated all three of these assets: They have huge networks of connected groups of people who are ready to help them. They have opportunities to advance and diverge in their career. They have given TED talks, written books, and their ideas are widely embraced. Some of these individuals who are women, use their celebrity and success as evidence of an equal or at least a magnanimous playing field.

The Real Difference in Resilience Between Men and Women

Outside the global limelight however, women who aspire to leadership roles in organizations large and small, face more stresses and shocks to their resilience than men. These additional burdens, which arise out of persistent cultural and economic gender inequalities–unequal pay, fewer open doors (especially in male dominated fields), unequal respect and credit given for their ideas and contributions–undermine the assets that make leaders resilient. Worse, these added burdens diminish a woman’s ability to gain access to the good stuff–the assets–in the first place.

Compounding these risks, lurk other dangers more common to women than men over the course of their lifetimes: greater financial insecurity, sexual harassment and abuse and a pervasive message that “girls can’t do as much as boys.” These factors, common in first world countries, are the rule in undeveloped countries. Think about that.

The more diversity in an organization’s workforce, the more relevant and profitable it becomes. Ironically, the biases that undermine resilience in aspiring women leaders also undermine diversity and profitability for the enterprise.

So back to the original question, when it comes to leadership resilience, are there differences between men and women? I will say this, to claim the jobs they have, women in leadership have persisted in the face of more and greater risks than their male counterparts. For the majority of women in the world, the road to leadership is longer and steeper, with fewer rest stops. If nothing else, this certainly makes women leaders strong as hell.

About Elle

©2015 Elle Allison-Napolitano. Elle Allison-Napolitano, PhD. is author of several books and articles focusing on leadership resilience. Elle is founder of Wisdom Out, a leadership and organizational development company that helps people, teams and organizations sustain transformational change and bring their best initiatives to deep implementation where they can make a real difference. You can contact Elle through her website www.WisdomOut.com.


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Category: BLOG, Leadership Development, Leadership Resilience, Women's Resilience

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