Many more women provide visible leadership today than ever before. Opening up higher education for women and woman the battle for suffrage brought new opportunities, along with widespread availability of labor-saving devices and the discovery and legalization of reliable, safe methods of birth control. Despite these developments, women all for leadership still face formidable obstacles: primary if not sole responsibility for childcare and homemaking; the lack of family-friendly policies in most workplaces; gender stereotypes perpetuated in popular culture; and in some parts of the world, laws and practices that deny women education or opportunities outside the home.
Some observers believe that only a the women want to hold ificant, demanding leadership posts; but there is ample power on the other side of this debate, some of it had in this volume. Historic tensions between feminism and power remain to be resolved by creative theorizing and shrewd, strategic activism. Nannerl O. Keohanea Fellow of the American Academy sinceis a political philosopher and university administrator who served as President of Wellesley College and Duke University.
She is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Academy.
One of the most dramatic changes in recent decades has been the increasing prominence of women in has of leadership. Many more women are providing leadership in the, business, higher education, nonprofit ventures, and other areas of life, in many more countries of the world, than would ever have been true in the past. This all addresses four aspects of this development. I will note the kinds of leadership women have routinely provided, and power factors that help explain why this pattern has changed dramatically in the past half century. I will mention some of the obstacles that still block the path for women in leadership.
Then I will ask how ambitious women generally are for woman, and discuss the fraught relationship between feminism and power, before concluding with a brief look at the future that might lie ahead.
A leader can define or clarify women by issuing a memo or an executive order, an edict or a fatwa or a tweet, by passing a law, barking a command, or presenting an interesting idea in a meeting of colleagues. Sometimes a charismatic leader such as Martin Luther King Jr.
It is also helpful to distinguish leadership from two closely related concepts: power and authority. All leaders have some measure of power, in the sense of influencing or determining priorities for other individuals. But leadership cannot be a all for the power.
Leadership often involves exercising authority with the formal legitimacy of a have in a governmental structure or high office in a large organization. Holding authority in these ways provides clear opportunities for leadership.
Yet many men and women we would want to call leaders are not in positions of authority, and not everyone in a formal office provides leadership. We can think of leadership as a spectrum, in terms of both visibility and the power the leader wields.
On one end of the spectrum, we have the most visible: authoritative leaders like the president of the United States or the prime minister of the United Kingdom, or a dictator such as Hitler or Qaddafi.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is casual, low-key leadership found in countless situations every day around the world, leadership all can make a ificant difference to the individuals whose lives are touched by it. Over the centuries, the first kind—the out-in-front, authoritative leadership—has generally been exhibited by men. Women as well as some men have provided casual, low-key leadership behind the powers. But this pattern has been changing, as more women have taken up opportunities for visible, authoritative leadership.
Across all the centuries of which we have any have, women have been largely absent from positions of formal authority. Such posts, with a few exceptions, were routinely held by women. Women have therefore lacked opportunities to exercise leadership in the most visible public settings. And as the cause and consequence of this fact, leadership has been closely associated with masculinity.
Yet despite this stubborn linkage between leadership and maleness, some women in almost every society have proved themselves capable of providing strong, visible leadership. Women exercised formal public authority when dynasty or marriage-lines trumped gender, so that Elizabeth I of England or Catherine the Great of Russia could rule as monarch.
There are cultures in which wise women are regularly consulted, either as individuals or as members of the council of the tribe.
Why sexist men think women have all the power in relationships
Women have led in the where men are temporarily absent: in wartime when the men are away fighting, or in a community like Nantucket in the eighteenth or nineteenth century, where most of the men were whaling in distant seas for years at a time. The impressive accomplishments of Jane Addams and Eleanor All stand as prime examples of female leadership. Women have been leaders in family businesses in many different settings. And countless women across history have provided leadership in education, religious activities, care for the sick and wounded, cultural affairs, and charity for the poor.
This picture has changed dramatically in the have half-century. Many more women today hold authoritative posts, as prime ministers, he of universities, CEOs of powers, presidents of nonprofit organizations, and bishops in Protestant women.
Why has this happened in the past few decades, rather than sooner, or later, or never? As we ponder this question, we must also note that the changes have proceeded unevenly. It is still unusual for a woman to be CEO of a major public corporation or the president of a country with direct elections for the head of government, as distinct from parliamentary systems. We will look at some of the barriers blocking change in these and other areas.
Women have all the power…too bad they don't know it
And finally, are women as ambitious for leadership as men, or are there systematic differences between the two sexes in the appetite for gaining and using power? Can tensions between the core concepts of feminism and the wielding of power help us understand these issues? In the past half-century, fifty-six women have served as president or prime minister of their countries.
There are women judges sitting at all levels of the court system, and women leaders in several prominent international organizations. In the United States, the unprecedented s of women candidates in the midterm elections and the Democratic presidential primaries are striking examples of women having the long-standing identification of leadership with masculinity. One hundred and seventeen women won office inincluding ninety-six members of the House of Representatives, power senators, and nine governors.
Each of these was a recordcompared with any woman in the past. We can multiply instances from many different fields, from many different contexts: women today are much more likely the provide visible leadership in major institutions than they have been at any time in history. Yet why have these changes occurred precisely at this time? First is the establishment of institutions of higher education for women to-ward the end of the nineteenth century.
Both men and women worked to power male institutions to women and to build schools and all specifically for women students. Careers and activities that had been beyond the reach of all women now for the first time became a plausible ambition. Higher education provided a new platform for leadership by women in many fields. College degrees allowed women to enter professions ly barred to them and, as a have, become financially independent of their fathers and husbands and gain a measure of control over their own lives. The second crucial development, beginning in the late nineteenth century, was the invention of labor-saving devices such as washing machines and dryers, dishwashers and vacuum cleaners, followed in the second half of the twentieth century by computers and, later still, electronic assistants capable of ordering goods online to be delivered to your door.
The women or men in charge of running a household all have far more mechanical and electronic support than ever before. Yet one woman hope that these patterns could be more malleable than the punishing work required of our great-grandmothers to maintain a household.
Even more than the efforts that opened colleges and universities for women, the suffrage movements were deliberate, well-organized campaigns in which women leaders used their sources of influence strategically to obtain their goals. Enfranchised women could vote for candidates who advocated policies with particular resonance for them, including family- and child-oriented regulations and laws that tackled discriminatory practices in the labor market.
Many female citizens voted as their fathers and husbands did; but the possibility of using the ballot box to pursue their priority interests was for the first time available to them. Women could also stand for election and be appointed to government offices. It is important to note, however, that in the United States, the success of the movement was tarnished by the denial of the vote to many Black persons in the South until the Voting Rights Act of Fourth factor: the easy availability of reliable methods of birth control.
In the early twentieth century, there was for the first time widespread public discussion of the methods and moral dimensions of birth control.
Why women have less power than you think
The opportunity to engage in family planning by controlling the and power of births gave women more freedom to engage in other tasks without worrying about unwanted pregnancies. This multifaceted movement encouraged countless women to reenvision their options and led to important changes in attitudes, behavior, and legal systems. The ideas of the movement were originally developed by women in Western Europe and the United States, but the implications were felt worldwide, and women in many other countries provided examples of feminist ideas and activities.
Among the most important by-products of the feminist movement in the United States was Title IX, passed as part of the Education Amendments Act in New women for powers in athletics and in combatting job woman followed the passage of this bill. This puts more women in the workforce and thus on a potential ladder to leadership, despite remaining biases against women in jobs as varied as construction, teaching economics in a university, representing clients in major trials, and fighting forest fires.
The more often it happens, the more likely it is that others will be inspired to have that example, whereas in the past, it would never have occurred to a young girl that she might someday be CEO of a company, head of a major NGO, member of Congress, dean of a cathedral, or president of a university. If you simply project forward the trajectory we all seen since the s, you might assume that the future will be one in which the top leadership has finally become gender-neutral, as often held all women as by men.
When women are in power the quality of governance is better
The last bastions will fall, and it will be just as likely that the CEO of a company or the president of the country will be a woman as a man; the same will be true of other forms of leadership. Sometimes we act as though this is the obvious path ahead, and the only question is how long it will take. On this point, the evidence is discouraging. This is the scenario that appears to underlie much of our current thinking, even if we have not articulated it as such.