Must women adopt male characteristics to succeed?

Topics: Gender role, Gender, Femininity Pages: 6 (2021 words) Published: February 14, 2014

Must women adopt male characteristics to succeed?

This paper will discuss the question of whether women must adopt male characteristics in order to succeed. Furthermore, this we will examine the different barriers and obstacles faced by women to attain success, and offer opinions as to why it has been traditionally difficult for women to achieve success in leadership positions. New evidence suggests that women have recently been advancing to senior positions in large organizations. However, they are still underrepresented in positions of authority within the public world of work compared to their male counterparts (White et al, 1992). Does that mean masculine style is what organizations are looking for in their leaders, and is adapting male characteristics the only possible way for women to succeed? Success has often been described with adjectives such as “competitive,” “aggressive,” or “dominant,” which are typically associated with masculinity. The Oxford dictionary describes success as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”. However, in reality success is a term that cannot be confined to a strict definition. Do factors such as timing, chance, luck and preparedness affect success? Is it possible to succeed without reaching the end goal? Within a work environment, an individual’s idea of success may be getting a promotion and moving up the cooperate ladder. While, another individual who has achieved a good work life balance may feel content with their life. Are they successful? Many of the above points debate on the subject of ‘what is success’. An individual’s perception regarding success may have been build by the norm, stereotypes and the different types of socializations the individual has been influenced by. Success in business and management has always been coupled with masculinity. Whether it's dressing in tradition of the successful man or leading in the style of other successful men. Despite all the gains that women in business and management have made over the past several decades, one thing doesn't seem to change; success still feels like a man's game to many women. To completely understand the subject in hand, it is vital to comprehend another part of the question, which looks at adoption of male characteristics as a means to succeed. Many have speculated that sex role stereotypes are the main cause for the lack of women in leadership positions. Throughout history masculinity and femininity have been seen as opposites. A successful woman is frequently regarded as an anomaly and women who become successful leaders are of often offered the presumed accolade of being described as “being like men”. For example, Margaret Thatcher was often described as the “best man” in Britain. Early research on sex role stereotypes in the late 1960s and early 1970s suggested that masculinity and femininity were seen as opposites. Men were expected to be masculine and women were to be feminine. In the study ‘Shattering the Glass Ceiling’ (1992) by Davidson and Cooper found that there were numerous invisible barriers in forms of ‘glass ceilings’ preventing women reaching the top of management hierarchy. These sex role stereotypes translated into the type of work women did. Throughout the earlier part of the century women were only employed in limited number occupations, resulting in occupational segregation. Such studies suggested that during a time when women adhered to their sex role stereotype, majority failed to succeed at top levels. In more recent times many women who have reached high management positions have been, given their scarcity, been labelled as ‘tokens’, as many see it as a way for corporate management to avoid criticism on basis of gender discrimination. This inequality is reflected in the ‘Female FTSE Board Report 2012’, which reports that only 15% of all FTSE100 directors were women, a figure that has only marginally increased in the last two decades. The disparity...

References: • Tannen, D (1990) You just don’t understand, New York: Ballantine.
• Sealy, R. Vinnicombe, S. (2012) The Female FTSE Board Report 2012. Available at: Accessed on 01.12.13
• Powell, G.N (2011) Women and Men in Management, Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.
• Sandberg. S. (2010). Why we have too few women leaders. Available at accessed on 02.12.13
• HS&DR New Evidence on Management and Leadership Report. Available at accessed on 27.11.13
• Davidson, M.J. and Cooper, C.L (1992) Shattering the Glass Ceiling: The Woman Manager, London: Paul Chapman.
• (online). Last accessed 27.11.13
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