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The advancement of women advancement into leadership positions has gone through a significant evolution leading to present gender transition. It is common for many people to query: "Can women be leaders?" In today's generation, we have women who have managed to surpass obstacles by climbing to top as leaders in corporate level in addition to partaking political roles. In the past, men were the leaders who made all the decisions but, now women can also make them. Due to their leadership skills, women have been able to assist in improving the decision-making process. Women leaders at top levels in their respective careers experience particular challenges amid other weaknesses. This paper presents the history of women leaders in corporate levels, the challenges they face as they climb the ladder of leadership, and their strengths and weaknesses.
Focusing on comparison studies carried out by Catalyst (a reputable organization that promotes the advancement of women in business) in the past and today on women leaders, there is a significant difference. Study findings show that there have been tremendous changes in women's perspective and experiences. According to Valerio, women today have achieved high educational levels and entered the workforce in numbers that were unthinkable in the past (13). As a result, they have now grown into an influential economic force, which is boosted by capabilities demonstrated through their present unique buying powers. Despite the improvement, there is still much to be done to develop and make the working environment helpful for women to succeed. Based on the study findings by catalyst carried out in 2005, it was revealed that women held only 16.4% of 10,873 corporate positions, in comparison with the 2002 finding, this was 0.7% improvement. This indicates that, can take 40 years for women to reach the level of men in corporate levels (Catalyst). The results show the attainment of significant improvement in terms of encouraging women to take up new roles in the professional world.
The embracing of the concept of gender diversity in most has led to some women becoming pioneers in the domain of leading. Many organizations increasingly continue to incorporate gender diversity in their business strategy and, host women leaders. These happen to be more successful than their counterparts. According to the 2004 study by Catalyst, most organizations with a higher percentage of women corporate leaders meet a 35.1% higher return of equity and 34% higher total return to shareholders (Catalyst). The findings also revealed that, overall, top executive women are contented with their positions, compensation, employers, and other aspects of their jobs. 73% of women are satisfied with trade-offs made between their work and personal goals (Catalyst). This reveals that women's contribution at the organizational level has led to a mass improvement in the final business outputs; thus pushing the growth index higher.
Achieving a good balance between leadership roles and parental roles has become a tremendous challenge of maintaining dual roles among some women leaders. This challenge is common and affects a high number of women working in organizational settings. This is aspect is complicated by the fact that some women leaders literally lack of critical, general management or line management skills needed in certain unique business environments. Consequently, this business initiatives leading to fluctuating profit and loss experiences, which hinders women in advancing into top management positions.
The need to get instant feedback as a way of proving their performance capabilities makes some women to go through stressful experiences. Based on the findings of the catalyst study, 43% percent are either felt neutral or dissatisfied about the career progress opportunities provided by their jobs (Catalyst). As Catalyst President Ilene H. Lang explained, women fail to request for the highest executive position because of fear of not having the business in the business experience (Catalyst). Such kind of occurrences acts as critical bottlenecks locking out capable women leaders from attaining their full scale potential.
Exclusion from informal networks is another barrier. Informal networks have a dramatic effect to a woman as it has on men. Networking women in both the public and private sector are responding in different ways, which challenge these forms of popular authority contained in male-dominated networks. These networks have potential change to work place and these benefits women. Stereotyping and preconceptions of the role and ability of women from men is another barrier. According to Helgesen's advice to women who want to be leaders is to be willing to learn how to communicate, prioritize and oversee activities efficiently (29). One ought to put into perspective that these barriers towards women's practice of leadership are interconnected.
Women as leaders have their own strength and weaknesses but, it is perceived that women weaknesses are actually their strengths. According to a Duke University researcher, the prevailing stereotypes that women in business are extremely difficult or just not as capable as men make the frame of the glass ceiling ('Women's Perceived Leadership Weaknesses Actually Strengths', para.1). Sensitivity has also been identified as one weakness with women. However, this has a positive impact on their understanding as demonstrated by the level of understanding and expertise, which causes them to be judged as better leaders than their men counterparts. It also explained that top women executives awarded with the responsibility of their own success, can be shown simultaneously as more capable and, more relationship-oriented than men executives, making them be seen as more qualified leaders than their counterparts (('Women's Perceived Leadership Weaknesses Actually Strengths', para.2).
Women in corporate positions have been able to establish a functional relational model, such that they are able to share their experiences with one another. This is a rare aspect among men I top corporate positions. This shows that women leaders strive to achieve a certain degree of compatibility among themselves, which essential in bridging the gap between different corporate ladders. Another study reveals the successful manner in which women chief executive officers were able to formulate fruitful professional relationships at personal level compared to the male chief executive officers. Moreover, most women leaders have been rated as being suitable in levels where practicing double roles and standards is important, consequently rejoicing over unusual hurdles ('Women's Perceived Leadership Weaknesses Actually Strengths', para.8).
Naturally, women have been perceived as being relationship-oriented persons, consequently leading to their characterization as feministic. Because of these feministic tendencies among some women corporate leaders, this has curved out a unique perspective, which is based on the employee. This has been labeled as a model of essential leadership in a constantly changing world. In essence, this occurrence of double standards and feminization in women's administration approach has made emerge as instrumental leaders compared to men leading key corporate organizations.
Among successful women in the present corporate setting includes Denise Morrison, who became the Chief Operating Officer in 2010 in addition to role as one of the directors in Campbell Soup Company (Krause, para.2). She still looks forward to being appointed CEO in her other work role as director. Sheri McCoy also successfully rose in a corporate career ladder to become the Vice Chair at Johnson and Johnson (Krause, para.2). Karen Alber managers different roles at H.J Heinz Company as the Senior Vice President, Global Program Management Officer, Chief Information Officer and a board member of the chairman's office in the company (Krause, para.2). However, there are also women who have had their troubles as women leaders. The previous CEO for Hewlett Packard, Carly Fiorina was ousted from her position for miscalculated business decisions by engineering the Compaq merger (Monica, para.3). She was closely followed by Patricia Dunn who was also ousted on similar grounds. This raised concern regarding women's capabilities to remain in their leadership positions for a significant amount of time.
Finally, the past ideology that women need to go through certain routes to prove their leadership skills has been overtaken with events. In today's generation, women are increasingly taking their chances and demonstrating good leadership qualities similar to the men. This is partly driven by their capability to establish a trust system and application of their unique relationship-oriented leadership skills as opposed to contemporary leadership based on traditional masculine-oriented perspectives. However, women leaders should be cautious to know that their work may be criticized differently at different corporate levels of the organization. In essence, women represent the most suitable replacement of leaders who are incapable influencing positive performance initiatives in their organizations.