Women & Leadership Links

Cultural Constraints on Women Leaders – New York Times

Why aren’t there more female leaders?

Ms. Toh and Mr. Leonardelli argue that women are held back by “tight” cultures and can emerge more easily as leaders in “loose” cultures. “Tight” cultures are ones that have clear, rigid rules about how people should behave and impose tough sanctions on those who color outside the lines. Socially conformist, homogeneous societies like Japan, Malaysia, Norway and Pakistan are tight cultures. Tight cultures, Ms. Toh and Mr. Leonardelli believe, hold women back because “cultural tightness provokes a resistance to changing the traditional and widespread view that leadership is masculine.”

Loose cultures, by contrast, do not have clear norms and are more tolerant of deviation from the rules. Heterogeneous societies and countries in the midst of social and political transition, like Australia, Israel, the Netherlands and Ukraine are loose cultures. These are cultures in which “societal members tend to be more open to change, and this openness may become manifest in changing expectations and attitudes about the masculinity of leadership.”

Women and the Leadership Gap (in the US) – The Daily Beast/Newsweek

Throughout American society, the dramatic under-representation of women at the top remains the norm, despite widespread misconceptions to the contrary. The truth is that men continue to run most major institutions and make most of the important political, executive, policy and other decisions in the United States. And as demonstrated by the current battle over contraceptive coverage in health insurance, the dearth of women decision-makers often results in policies that fail to serve women’s needs, let alone the larger goal of equality.

“We have fallen into what I call the 16 percent ghetto, which is that if you look at any sector, be it aerospace engineering, Hollywood films, higher education, or Fortune 500 leading positions, women max out at roughly 16 percent,” Spar said. “That is a crime, and it is a waste of incredible talent.”

Such figures belie America’s self-image as a world leader with enlightened values; the nation actually ranks 71st in female legislative representation, behind Bangladesh, Sudan and United Arab Emirates.

Whatever the arena, analysts cite various reasons why women’s progress has stalled in recent years, starting with a backlash to the previous period of rapid social evolution. “Classically speaking, resistance to change comes at two points,” Gloria Steinem explains. “The first is right in the beginning, when you break the rules and people say, ‘No, women can’t do that!’ And the second comes when you reach a critical mass, because then the dominant group thinks, ‘Wait a minute!’ Up until then, it hasn’t seemed as if the other group might have great influence or, in the case of women, might actually outnumber them. We’re now at the second stage of resistance.”

Women Still Trapped Below Glass Ceiling of Party Politics – IPS News

Although 40 to 50 percent of members of political parties globally are women, only about 10 percent hold positions of leadership.

And “with less than 20 percent of the world’s parliamentary seats occupied by women,” says UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, “it is clear that political parties need to do more – and should be assisted in those efforts – to support women’s political empowerment.”  “If we want to promote democracy and empower women politically, we must engage, not bypass, political parties,” UNDP Gender Team Director Winnie Byanyima told IPS. Unless women lead political parties, they will not lead governments, said Byanyima, a former Ugandan parliamentarian and diplomat.

Globally, the proportion of women ministers in governments is lower, averaging about 16 percent. And the proportion of women heads of state and government is lower still, and has declined in recent years, standing at less than five percent in 2011. “The low numbers continue in the face of three decades of lobbying and efforts by the international community to eliminate discrimination and empower women,” the study notes.

Using the Legacy of Muslim Women Leaders to Empower – The Huffington Post

Muslim women are steeped in stubborn stereotypes as meek, oppressed and in need of rescue. Recurring images beamed into our homes and phones from abroad of Muslim women being denied access to education, the ability to drive or even the right to cast a vote or run for political office only serve to reinforce such widely held misconceptions; examples of empowered Muslim women (particularly those donning the hijab) living here or overseas seldom enjoy the same quality air time. As such, our views remain skewed on the subject.

Further, such pervasive generalizations about Islam’s inherent oppression of Muslim women are not only offensive but ultimately also unhelpful to the female subjects they purport to describe. This is because secular Western feminist notions, often viewed as the cure-all remedy for alleged misogynistic practices in the Muslim world, are frequently met with suspicion and rejected by Muslim men and women alike. They may view such ideas as unwanted foreign intrusions into their domestic, religious and family affairs.

Where Islam continues to hold political, social and religious currency in society, the human rights agenda can be effectively advanced through re-education initiatives regarding “proper” Muslim women roles through a new yet sound Islamic jurisprudential lens.

Specifically, Muslims can further the human rights agenda by re-examining the lives of the very first Muslim women who lived during Islam’s formative period as more than historical figures but as modern Islamic models to be emulated today. Indeed, these women embody viable political, social and financial models with modern applicability.

Kenya: How Political Parties Sideline Women Leaders – All Africa

Kenyan political parties routinely flout their own policies and manifestos on gender representation.
And, among the big players, President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity is the worst culprit, with just 18 per cent of its leadership positions occupied by women. The party’s constitution stipulates that at least a third of leadership positions should go to women. Its manifesto and 2007 election platform commit it to ensuring that at least 30 per cent of all public appointments and elective positions should go to women.

The Democratic Party, once headed by President Kibaki, says in its manifesto that it will ensure that 50 per cent of Cabinet positions and 50 per cent of parastatal heads are women yet only 17 per cent of its leaders are women.
A study conducted by the Centre for Multiparty Democracy whose findings were released at a forum in Nairobi on Tuesday says that this culture of excluding women extends to Parliament, where they formed just nine per cent of members.


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