Feminism is a range of social movements, political movements, and ideologies that aim to define, establish, and achieve the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes. Feminism incorporates the position that societies prioritize the male point of view
As women increasingly enter leadership roles that traditionally have been occupied by men, and with the increasing diffusion of transformational leadership theory, there is growing interest in the relationship between gender and transformational leadership. A wide array of feminist theories that have emerged in the last decades offer conceptual lenses, which can enrich an understanding of the role of gender in the organizational context and the study of leadership.
The proportion of women in executive roles has nearly tripled during the last three decades of the 20th century (US Dept. of Labor, 1998). However, women in the highest echelons of large business corporations are still quite rare (Meyerson and Fletcher, 2000). The growing number of women in managerial positions created interest in the role of women as leaders (Klenke, 1996). At present, transformational leadership theory has gained popularity. Accumulating empirical evidence that transformational leadership substantially influences employee’s performance and organizational level outcomes (Avolio et al., 1999; Lowe et al., 1996), has stimulated engagement with the theoretical underpinnings of transformational leadership.
The simultaneous development of these fields has given rise to studies linking the concept of transformational leadership with gender. These studies, although still quite limited in number and scope, vary in terms of their theoretical background and methods. Feminist theories attempt to understand the pervasive and persistent gender inequality and women’s oppression in society (Hooks, 2000; Lorber, 2001; Tong, 1998). They vary according to their explanations of the underlying cause for women’s lesser status (Lorber, 2001) and their perceptions of the ways in which women’s liberation can be achieved (Jagger, 1983). Feminist theories are not only concerned with “women’s issues”, but rather they offer a gamut of conceptual lenses, which can contribute to the development of a richer, more inclusive field of organizational studies (Cala`s and Smircich, 1996).
I still remember way back after I had just gotten married, I was offered a full scholarship to Alberta University in Canada to pursue a Masters’ program in public policy however my gants could not stand it when I shared it with my aunty. My aunty made it clear to me that there’s no way I would leave my husband with our 11 months baby to go pursue what she defined as “endless dreams” – “they can wait, but your marriage may not”. These words dawned on me and shattered my dream of pursuing my career at that moment. As much as other opportunities have come on board, I have to acknowledge I lost this one. This shows how society places women in different places compared to men. Am sure my husband would not think twice about this same opportunity if it was unveiled.
According to the transformative leadership for women’s rights, an OXFAM Guide on understanding how new leadership can create sustainable change that promotes women’s rights and gender equality. “More poor and marginalized women will occupy key positions of power and influence in communities and organizations, providing transformative leadership in support of women’s rights”. Transformative leadership which is leadership for sustainable change addresses the root causes of inequality. Promoting transformative leadership is a central objective in achieving gender equality on a community, regional, national and global basis.
The achievement of women’s full rights is a complex socio- economic and political process. It demands diverse, positive, and sustained changes in policy, practices, resource allocation, attitudes, beliefs, and power relationships. Together these changes have the potential to lead to transformed societies where women and other marginalized groups can fully achieve their rights. Transformative change means change that is fundamental, lasting, and which challenges existing structural inequality.
‘Power within’ refers to a person’s sense of self-worth, self- knowledge, self-confidence, and their conviction of what is legitimate. It includes an ability to recognise individual differences while respecting others, and refers to the capacity to imagine and have hope. It is important to remember that leadership is not always linked with an appointed position or role. Leadership can occur in a moment, act, or behaviour. Anyone can be a leader, or take on leadership, in any given situation. Leadership can also be imagined as a process, where cooperation is emphasized over competition, power and influence is shared within the group, and participative decision-making takes place.
The advancement of women’s leadership has traditionally been focused on increasing women’s political participation. This is an important strategy because there is evidence to suggest that increasing the participation of women in politics and public life makes a significant difference for women and society. The visibility of women in public office encourages greater political engagement and mobilization of a broad spectrum of women. It helps to shift people’s perceptions of what a leader is, and challenges the idea that only men can be/are leaders. It can also give women the confidence to apply for positions of public leadership.8 However, working to promote women’s political and public leadership may be ineffective if we ignore the broader political and structural context in which this is taking place, and the relevant informal sources of power and decision-making that are active in that context. This is because conventional leadership is often situated in existing power structures. Usually these are founded in hierarchical and exclusionary patterns of power over. Globally, decision-making spaces are still male-dominated. Leaders who become part of these structures are encouraged to model prevailing power behaviors which may compromise on their principles, and are rewarded for doing so. Merely ensuring that women hold formal positions of power is therefore not enough
Feminist leadership is being called out more and more to manage and deal with increasing global challenges in the socio-political realms. It responds to the long-standing privileging of more masculine ways of leading that have often led to less than desirable outcomes.
It is clear that many of us women feel most comfortable sitting with and using our personal power, in the form of our educational achievements, skills, capabilities, and accumulated experiences and such. However, many of us as women still deny our projected power, or those aspects of power attributed to a person on the basis of our social ranking, personality, or other aspects of perceived identity. This change/ movement needs to start with Us!