I’ve been thinking about this for awhile and since we will be getting a woman PM, I thought I’ll blog it.
I’m a big advocate of women’s rights to equality and acknowledge that women’s standing in society is different across countries and cultures. I’m more tolerant perhaps of men’s autocratic and often belligerent styles, growing up with a father like that and while it is often intimidating and could be construed as bullying, women from my culture in Malaysia often had a way of dealing with it. This ranged from ignoring the hot air; pandering to it so that they get stuff done exactly the way they want done (men are the head of the household, and women the neck that tells the head where to turn, as the old saying goes); divvying up the tasks so men take on the tasks most suited for their nature and women take the rest. I’m not saying any particular tactic is right or wrong, but I do find that it takes a confident woman to manage both men and women and to lead them. Sometimes I wonder if some of the negative perceptions of feminism could be due to the actions stemming from the insecurities of the advocates. That said, we all have insecurities and some level of awareness of sensitivities is no bad thing.
I digress. I meant to talk about leadership styles in women and one of my pet peeve is for those in policy (whether business or politics) to over simply the problem of lack of woman representation and proceed to ‘solve’ it by increasing the number of women, whether on boards, in teams etc. etc. I find this quite harmful, especially if you choose a wrong candidate.
It is commonly acknowledged that that women tend to have matriarchal styles of leadership and men with patriarchal styles. That said, I’ve known a fair few women who exhibit a patriarchal style just as I have also been mentored by a wonderful chap whose style is absolutely matriarchal. Styles also tend to work contextually depending on the people whom you manage as well. I have a more matriarchal style which suits people who are more independent minded and creative, and have failed miserably managing people who are more used to a task driven patriarchal style (I clearly cannot lead an army). Many women I have encountered exhibit a more matriarchal style of leadership but I have found that the most successful leaders are men and women who are more adaptable to changing between styles depending on whom they manage. Teams, however, are much more built on one style, I feel, because it can get confusing. The military is patriarchal, a research team is more matriarchal. Corporate teams probably more patriarchal, startup teams more matriarchal? No evidence, just a guess.
So my pet peeve:
Shoving women into a group that works towards a patriarchal style and expect her to be equal with others who exhibit that style diminishes her ability to lead and in the end, harmful to the feminist cause.
To expect a woman to be happy having a woman leader misses the point on equality for women. Men do not necessary like all men leaders, why would women? I look forward to the day when I get to dislike a woman leader, just because there are so many to choose from.