Social norms and stereotypes shape woman leaders

Posted October 3, 2014 from Sri Lanka
untitled.jpg (1/1)
Social construction of leadership is strongly associated with males and masculine traits, thus leads to contradicting view of power and femininity. Though people argue that women should be empowered and should lead the world, they are reluctant to give women the opportunities to become leaders. Two reasons can be stated as the reason for this invisibility of female leaders in our communities. Firstly, gender norms and stereotypes that are the greatest barriers to overcome. Secondly, women themselves are not ready to take responsibilities in mixed sex group activities. Same sex female groups or organizations, such as girls’ college, girls’ universities, are socially friendly for female leaders. In addition, women’s leaderships are warmly welcomed when an organization or institution works for women, such as women rights organizations, domestic violence NGOs, and community organizations that focus of childcare. Therefore, though women are educated and economically empowered, their leadership roles are closely tied with gender norms activities. Generally, young women never took a leadership role in these clubs as well as the members are not ready to give a higher position to a female member. In those community based clubs and organizations, leaders are selected in fair democratic ways, and an invisible hand plays a role in selecting male members for the highest position, such as president, and female members for vice president and secretary. As young women always know that they will not be selected for the highest position, they normally do not stand as the president candidate. This situation clearly explains the above mentioned two reasons, society’s unwillingness to select a female leader, and female members’ reluctance to take leadership roles in mixed group activities. I strongly believe this situation should be changed, and woman should become leaders not only in unisex groups, but also in community level clubs and groups. This situation can be counter argued by pointing out Sri Lanka’s political history of having world first female Prime Minister, Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranayakka. I do accept and be proud to say that we have a strong political history of having first female prime minister and the only female president in Sri Lanka’s political history. Political analyzes indicate that Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranayakka got the position just from sympathy votes, after her husband’s murder. No one knows the truth and do not spend more on this, as people related to these incidents are no more. Similarly her daughter becomes Sri Lankan’s first female president, but people attributed her victory to her mother’s political influence. Also, even after her presidential period, she has been blamed for fueling the ethnic war, than solving it. This incident in our political history clearly illustrates that though females are selected for highest leadership roles, their talents are attributed to social circumstances or sympathy than their talents. Therefore, except women associations and organization, gender norms and stereotypes have a greater impact on shaping women leaders.

Comments 1

  • Tamarack Verrall
    Mar 21, 2015
    Mar 21, 2015

    Dear Umaiyal,

    You have outlined so well an important problem that we still face, in women being successful entering and holding leadership positions. It is so true that we have been able to grow into the strong leaders that we are, yet all the barriers that you describe so well here are still in place. It is sadly so true that a woman will manage to get into a leadership position only to have her ability questioned, and be accused of being "given" the position unfairly. You point this out so well. I am glad too that you expose the blaming of Sri Lanka's first female president for generations of problems. This happens all too frequently. Thank you for this strong reminder of what we are up against, as well as your reaffirming words that the time we have together as women is crucial and fruitful. It is by supporting each other that we grow strong. I am glad to know that you are there, strong sister.


Log in or register to post comments