Is a woman’s ability to lead undermined by gender stereotype?

Beauty with a purpose – Ms. Janet Serrao Agarwal
January 22, 2020
IWH turns Two!
February 7, 2020

Is a woman’s ability to lead undermined by gender stereotype?

This article first appeared in the hospitality journal, the Hospitality Biz, February 2020 edition. Reproducing the article here with due credits to the magazine.

We celebrate the second anniversary of Indian Women in Hospitality on 7th February 2020. IWH today has more than 1628 Indian women working in the hospitality industry from around the globe; as its members and connected with many more. It is a platform created for ideating, knowledge & experience sharing, collaborating and mentoring. We have stayed on focus and true to IWH’s mantra of Inspiring, Enriching and Empowering!

I was wondering what message we’d like to reach out to others with and a thought struck my mind, this article looks into various aspects of that. A concern that every working woman faces at some point in her career or personal life is that of being stereotyped. A gender stereotype is a general conception about attributes or the roles that ought to be performed by men and women. It is harmful when it limits people; either men or women’s potential to develop their personal abilities, pursue their dream careers or make life choices.

Basis of gender stereotyping

The stereotype that, ‘men take charge and women take care’; create biases as these emotions are not gender specific. These are qualities that leaders are supposed to possess irrespective of their genders. At Cornell University last year I met a Professor of Strategy who during one of his sessions said that 21st century will be driven by female leadership, he clarified that he wasn’t referring to the gender but that leaders both male and female; will need to display qualities that nurture and care while they mentor their teams at workplaces.

Women are often judged as being too tough, too soft or too emotional; and never just right! Women leaders are thus seen as either being proficient or liked but not both. Men on the other hand are likely to be seen as having the right leadership style whereas women need to prove off and on that they too can lead. Stating that women thus end up working twice as hard as their male counterparts; won’t be wrong. A woman is seen as being less serious about her job. What creates that opinion about her is out of our understanding. Sometimes the very need for a woman to work is questioned. More so if her husband is doing well professionally. Her reason to work may or may not be her husband; it’s her own education and competencies. Every career person has aspirations. It’s just that a married woman with children might emphasise on maintaining a work-life balance rather than being highly ambitious but her career aspirations cannot be undermined. I wouldn’t even like to think of men and women as being very different. They have their own set of issues to manage. Every journey comes with its own ups and downs as well as the meandering path that it follows. You can’t question the path unless you have walked that journey. What is easy to either gender may come across as a major challenge for the other; we should be sensitive to that.

Bridging the gap

Despite the recent progress in increasing gender equality in organizations, workplace hierarchies remain male-dominated in most domains. Women around the globe continue to face opportunity and wage gap. The issue has been raised numerous times especially in sports and the film industry. Since these two professions have higher visibility and bigger reach; the voices are heard on a global platform. Does it not apply to other professions? It does and we hear many women voicing these issues. Missing out on opportunities based on one’s gender is worrisome. Each individual, man or woman has unique skill sets and similar intelligence; providing equal opportunities to them will deliver similar results. Remember that work or chores have no gender; giving us a strong message of equality rather than stereotype.

Gender stereotyping is an obstacle to achieving gender equality and often leads to gender discrimination. The way forward is:

  • Find facts– Don’t rely on assumptions based on gender stereotype.
  • When it comes to women leaders; credit them for their efficacy and avoid negative stereotyping.
  • Judge people fairly- Juxtapose the gender of the person if need be to double check that you are being rational.
  • Develop a culture of Diversity and Inclusion in your organization; train employees to sensitise and educate them on the effects of negative gender stereotyping.
Dr. Laxmi Todiwan
Dr. Laxmi Todiwan
Founder Indian Women in Hospitality. She is a Professor, Corporate Trainer, Motivational Speaker and a Blogger. A multiple award winning hospitality professional with a career spanning over two decades; people engagement, training and development are close to her heart. She writes for hospitality journals, online platforms and columns in the local newspapers. Married to a Master Mariner she loves to write on the maritime industry as well as the lives and relationships of the fraternity. She expresses her thoughts on her blog and website,

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