Leadership Development and Gender Bias – Does it exist in our Leadership Training in 2011?

Leadership Development and Gender Bias – Does it exist in our Leadership Training in 2011?

As we enter the new world of change as the workplace grows more diverse what can we do as Talent Management agents to help lead less gender bias in all types of training? Are there barriers and biases for women leadership on governing boards within organizations?

My guess without having done a lot of research and development is yes. When you couple the multi-generational workforce, with the current leadership who primarily are in the Traditionalist and top and middle Baby-boomer tiers that typically make up these governing boards, then a real look at how to change mind-sets may help with the needed change required in gender biased leadership roles for women.

• Traditionalists, Born before 1945 (ages 66+ in 2011)

• Baby Boomers, Born 1946 to 1965 (ages 46-65) Three-tiers, the 46-51 ages is the last tier, middle-tier – 52-60, first tier is 61-65 – in 2011)

• Gen Xs 1966-1975 (ages 35-45 in 2011) • Gen Ys, 1976- 1986 (34-25 in 2011)

• Millennials, 1987-1977 (Ages 24-33 and younger+)

In an article in the Journal of Leadership Studies (2011) entitled, Women in Grassroots Leadership: Barriers and Biases experienced in a Membership Organization Dominated by Women, the authors Kaufman and Grace did some great research on the matter, and the findings are a bit disturbing.

Regardless of the same exact leadership training in an organization, the men six months later did better than the women in that same organization. “Expectations and ideas about leadership are often taken from a perspective that adopts masculinity as the norm (Lamsa & Sintonen, 2001; McEldowney et al., 2009).” (p 7)

The study was conducted at an organization known as the American Farm Bureau Federated in a Leadership program entitled “Strengthening the Voice.”

The Path-Goal Theory was used which sets up the (1) the defined goals, (2) clarify the path, (3) remove the obstacles, and (4) provide support. In a nut shell what was discovered is the obstacles were not removed regardless of the path-goal theory therefore the women were not as successful as the men. Obviously there is more detail in the actual case-study – yet the take-away is the interpretation to those barriers and biases that these women engaged in as they moved towards the goal of leadership in their organization.

Some of the findings; 1) Persisting Stereotypes and Bias, 2) Separation and Isolation, 3) Desire for Change, 4) Potential for Added Value. If you look at the multi-generations of the Millennials and the Generation Ys and Xs as the women come into the workplace – will the women bump into some of the same biases and barriers that the Baby Boomers and Traditionalist women face?

The question, how to change the mindset of organization’s that are male dominated so women can move to more and more leadership positions within an organization and on boards?

The issues are still individual perceptions, group think and organizational structures regardless of the type of organization such as non-profit or for profit.

Will different types of training need to be provided to address the gender biases in the workplace, most likely it will. Multi-generational training will need to include gender biases as the Millennials and Generation Ys become more prominent in the workplace.

Leadership and Management training programs need to focus on the barriers that are real for women and make the efforts to remove the barriers for success.

Every time a woman leaves an organization to find another organization that better accepts her is a costly choice for the current organization, provided that the organization looks at human capital and knowledge as an asset.

Kaufman, E. and Grace, P. (2011). Women in Grassroots Leadership: Barriers and Biases experienced in a Membership Organization Dominated by Women. Journal of Leadership Studies, Vol. 4, Number 4, 2011, DOI: 10.1002/jls, pp. 6-16.

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About Linda Savanauskas

An accomplished talent management professional with experience in curriculum design, development of learning strategies, and professional skills development training programs for the workplace. Collaboration in training programs includes small and medium size businesses (SMB) to larger organizations from Raleigh to Charlotte, North Carolina. Virtual instructor led training can be offered to any location.