Follow The Leader.
Whether in the professional realm or the personal one, men who take charge are usually seen as strong, powerful, prominent, the ultimate man. Women who head the room or ‘wear the pants’ in a relationship don’t have that luxury. We’re lucky to be seen positively at all. In fact, women at the top are shamed, chided, and looked ferociously down upon. In other words, he’s a boss, and she’s, well, a bitch.
It’s there, that double bind– after all these years it really is still wedged deep into cultural stigma. “Success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg often says. Will we ever move past it?
For most of history, there’s been thought that leadership belongs to men, that leaders are men. If– and that’s always a big if– a woman takes the lead, she’s expected to act like a man, make all the same contributions, but still remember to be “feminine enough” in order to be more well-received. Oh, that lovely double bind.
It doesn’t take a genius to know that leadership has yet to be reimagined. In this day and age, it needs to be reassessed, retooled, and recreated for a generation of women and men. Barnard College in New York City– one of the 46 remaining all-women’s colleges in the country — is one of many institutions that are taking this into careful consideration.
AthenaCORE10 has been developed by The Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard as a new initiative to change what leadership can be by looking at core attributes and skills that women need in order to be successful leaders. Vision, ambition, courage, entrepreneurial spirit, resilience, communication, leverage, collaboration, negotiation and advocacy are just some of the attributes being taught. It’s not just about altering cultural perception anymore, it’s about developing an innovative way of helping us, as women, get there. “We talk a lot about changing the capacity of women to lead, and changing the culture…” says Kathryn Kolbert, Director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies. “Both things have to happen simultaneously.”
Kolbert’s not the first to say this, and she definitely won’t be the last. So while on this topic of leadership, I am glad, so very glad— after the progress our country made in 2008 when appointing Barack Obama as President– that we are once again starting to trek up a brighter path. We are taking another step towards simultaneously abolishing that nasty double bind.
Last Sunday, Hillary Clinton officially announced her candidacy for the 2016 Presidential Race:
“I’m running for president,” Clinton says towards the end of the video, with a promise to be a “champion” for “everyday” Americans. “I want to be [your] champion, so you can do more than just get by. You can get ahead and stay ahead.”
Well, it’s about time someone other than a He took hold of the reins, so get ready America! The evidence is already there. When more women are leaders, society’s view of how leaders operate and what they look like can significantly change for the better. When more women are leaders, communities are more productive and successful. A new global study even shows that when women (and Millenials!) lead, big things tend to follow.
And, of course, when more women are leaders, we are able to raise the aspirations of women and girls all around the world. So many thanks, Hillary. We are ready for you Madam President.