Role of Leadership

Leadership plays a role in gender equality as an agent of change, but also in providing positive role models to which women can aspire. Leaders are needed to articulate the vision, engage, involve and support people in how to realise that vision (Kotter 1990). Leadership is Chifley’s ‘light on the hill’ (Australian Museum of Democracy 2017), a beacon for others to follow.

Leadership is defined as ‘a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal’ (Northouse 2016, p. 1).  More generally, Kotter (1990) says that leadership is both about coping with and encouraging change and that leaders need to set the direction for their followers.

Research from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (2017) shows that women are underrepresented in film and television as both characters and content creators. Gender stereotypes are reinforced when young women and girls do not see women in roles that they can aspire to themselves (Wheeler & Sojo 2016).  Leadership is stereotypically and culturally recognised as a masculine construct; men face fewer challenges in becoming successful leaders and the qualities used to describe leaders are similar to those used to describe men (Koenig et al. 2011). von Hippel et al. (2011) suggest that in order to be regarded as leaders, some women dissociate from their natural behaviours, in effect they behave more like a man than a woman, an action that can have negative mental health consequences.

However, women do surpass men in their use of participatory leadership (Bowles & McGinn 2005).  Having women in leadership roles is crucial to achieving this goal. Positive female role models can gradually protect women from the vagaries of stereotyping and can make success appear possible (Hoyt, Burnette & Innella 2011). 

On this issue, politicians, community leaders and female role models can provide a voice that empowers women and gives proper value to care provision and domestic duties but also one that raises the aspirations of girls towards “non-traditional” female employment. 

Continued on the next page – Goal Champion.