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Why aren't more women in leadership positions?

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Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines authentic as “True to one's own personality, spirit or character.”

To be a great leader, I have found that it is extremely important to be authentic.

While extremely important, however, it can at times also be very difficult. That sounds like a paradox: Shouldn’t being able to be true to one’s self and showing one’s true personality and character be, in fact, the easiest thing to do?

While all leaders struggle with this paradox, I think women face this challenge more often and with a greater impact than men.

A 2014 Pew Research Center survey exploring perceptions of why more women do not attain top executive business positions or high political offices shows that a majority of respondents cited a double standard as the reason behind the disparity.
A 2014 Pew Research Center survey exploring perceptions of why more women do not attain top executive business positions or high political offices shows that a majority of respondents cited a double standard as the reason behind the disparity. - ()

Why? Leadership, as with many skills, is learned to an extent, by watching others and then incorporating those skills into one’s repertoire. The truth is, however, in 2017, there are still many more male leaders than female leaders.

While men and women have a variety of skills and tendencies that overlap, they certainly have a lot of skills and tendencies that are different. In those differences, women, I believe struggle to mirror the leadership they see because it doesn’t translate perfectly into their authentic self.

Many articles have been written that talk about the obstacles that women leaders face, including a variety of issues like those addressed by the Pew Research Center in November 2014.

Of course, what this research doesn’t explore is how men’s continued monopolization of leadership positions means women coming up continue lack the role models necessary to shape their authentic strengths into the leadership paradigm they aspire to. Women leaders are often still on the fringe, looking and acting just a little bit differently than many recognized leaders.

As the pendulum swings and more women leaders emerge, all of us are being exposed to these subtle leadership differences. In time, leadership characteristics will expand to include the nuances of female leadership. I look forward to those changes.

Jennifer Oswald currently serves as vice president for Momentum Inc., a small, women-owned IT and management consulting firm based in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. As a Certified Business Analysis Professional™ (CBAP®), she leads the Momentum team in providing services in management consulting, process improvement, project management and implementation support.

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