As India continues to transform herself, the role of women in our society is evolving as they occupy positions of power, importance and influence in the new economy. Companies are increasingly realizing the value that women bring and the differential impact they are making on an organization’s performance. Young women are discovering their entrepreneurial strengths and establishing successful businesses. Remarkably, police stations operated entirely by women can now be found around the country.
A related question that has consumed both academic and popular writers is whether men and women have the same leadership abilities. On average, women in management positions are somewhat better leaders than men in equivalent positions, according to a study published in the current Psychological Bulletin. A transformational leadership style may be especially congenial to women because this way of leading is relatively androgynous and has some nurturing, feminine aspects. A considerable body of research has shown that women can be disliked and distrusted in leadership roles, especially when they exert authority over men, appear to be extremely competent or use a dominant style of communication. Transformational behavior may lessen suspicion of female leaders and alleviate problems of lesser authority and legitimacy that they sometimes face.
Another reason women may favor a transformational style is that such a leader operates more like an excellent teacher than a traditional boss. Women’s past socialization may give them more ability to lead by teaching — that is, by developing and nurturing workers’ abilities and inspiring them to be outstanding contributors. And the glass ceiling itself may produce more highly skilled female leaders. Research shows that higher standards are often imposed on women to attain leadership roles and to retain them. Because transformational leadership constitutes skillful leadership, women may be more skillful leaders than men because they have to meet a higher standard.
Are we however taking the progress of women for granted? In spite of this increased role in the professional sector, there is no doubt that there is much work to be done in overcoming the factors that discourage women entrepreneurs. How many people are aware of women who have stepped beyond their conventional roles? Are these women being acknowledged, encouraged and recognized?