Corporate and political leadership still dominated by men

Society has made strides in combating sexism in the workplace, but gender inequality still lurks.


Jacques Grießmayer, via Wikimedia Commons, creative commons

Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, is one of the few female heads of state.

For years, leaders have been mostly men. From CEOs to leaders of countries, women are rarely seen. For centuries women have proven to be able to take on large tasks. Whether it’s helping in foreign affairs or leading an army, women can get things done.

In history, females are found to take charge. The events of the times may have changed, but there has always been the underlying theme of sexism and misogynistic views. For instance, in ancient Egypt, Cleopatra was able to hold the country together during a time of turmoil. In the 16th century, Irish pirate Grace O’Malley was able to lead a ship of pirates and win battles.

If a woman is independent and successful, she is deemed as a handful. If a woman is married and successful, she is asked if she struggles with balance (men are usually not asked this). Society has this view that women can either be successful and have no life, or they must choose between that life or a career. These ideas, added with some unknown and ridiculous fear of successful women, can easily cause women who hold the qualities needed to be successful kept out of leadership positions.

There have been all sorts of preconceived notions about why women can’t gain the leadership they desire. People deem them to be “too emotional,” “too cold,” and people quickly judge their leadership abilities because of their gender. These notions need to be swept away because a woman has every right to be direct, have strong leadership qualities, and be rational and empathetic as well.

The Equal Rights Amendment would have an effect on workplace inequality. “Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged by the United states or by any State on account of sex.” Ironic how that works in a working environment.
As the amendment would reduce gender inequality, it would have a similar impact as too no discrimination based on race, religion, or nationality (which, like gender, are all things people identify with). Turns out, employers have found ways to sweep the idea of gender equality under the rug.

There have been all sorts of preconceived notions about why women can’t gain the leadership they desire. People deem them to be “too emotional,” “too cold,” and people quickly judge their leadership abilities because of their gender.

— Mia Rheineck

In the 20th century, the amount of women in the workforce was on the rise. With this influx, many male employers were trying to keep women off to the side. When women want to take the lead, male bosses have a tendency to try getting them to be quiet; a common method is bribery. One well known working woman is journalist and activist Gloria Steinem. During the 1970s, her agent told her she was being paid less than men. She was writing personal essays for Time and was the only female writing for them. Steinem wrote to the editor advocating for equal pay, and, instead, he gave her a Gucci purse. Needing the money, she tried returning the bag, and when Gucci didn’t take it back, Steinem was left with a smaller check, frustration, and a Gucci bag she did not need. If given the choice between a higher position and an item like a purse, most would want the higher position.

Women who are also entrepreneurs face conflict as well. Some have trouble receiving loans for their businesses. This hurdle can be discouraging to some women, but many don’t let it stop them. They have proven to be more ambitious and successful than their male counterparts. There was a time when women would need a man to sign off on a business loan even if there was no male partner in the business. If a woman was single, divorced, or widowed, she would need male permission to receive credit cards in the 1970s.

To some this may seem long ago, but really these events were roughly 30-40 years ago. Our country may seem advanced and progressive, when in reality it was not that long ago that women were deemed incapable of handling finances.

An often overlooked group are women of color. The Center for Women Policy Studies found that 21% of women of color have said they feel they cannot be themselves at work. The study also found 28-44% of women of color feel they have to play down their ethnicities at work. Taking those statistics into consideration, women of color are facing additional hurdles while attempting to gain leadership roles.

Imagine a work environment where the roles were flipped: women were the strong and men were the weak. Would our society still question women’s abilities, or would they question the men? Women have been proven to lead, whether it be in a classroom teaching or sitting on Supreme Court. Our country is moving ahead, but without gender equality, we will not reach our full potential as a nation.