A few centuries ago, women were perceived as housewives whose responsibilities were to take care of their partners, children, and homes. Although these responsibilities are significant and essential, this perception has limited female individuals from being involved in critical discussions in society and voicing their views regarding the identified issues. Women were hindered from conveying their insights about politics by not having the right to suffrage. With this, the male gender was assigned to recognize the issues that women could be experiencing, failing to represent the reality of women's experiences back then, which led to various movements around the world.
As society progresses through various efforts of women from different generations, women are not only allowed to vote but also to run for a position in the government. The main question would be, are the efforts of various female empowerment movements allowing the women of today to assume higher roles in society? Does the demand for a change of perspective enable women of this generation to represent the female leaders capable and qualified as their male counterparts, or are there many discussions to be made? These questions are relevant since it is essential to view the progress after 100 years of the women's empowerment movement. The perception and attitude of modern society towards women leaders running for government positions is gender-based and sexist.
Women leaders who are qualified and capable still suffer from sexism and stereotype-biased against the female gender. According to Ditonto, Hamilton, and Redlawsk (2013), women leaders who possess feminine characteristics often suffer the outcome during elections since leadership roles are often viewed as better managed by masculine traits. Moreover, leadership positions are considered to be better handled by a strong mind, assertiveness, and decisiveness, which were often associated with the male gender; thus, for women candidates to charm the public, they must illustrate male traits rather than the traditional female character to be successful in leading and heading the position they hope to acquire.
Fridkin and Kenney (2011) explained that some citizens tend to think that the gender of a leader can affect their leadership style; thus, they believe that it is a crucial basis when it comes to selecting a leader. In connection, Oliver and Conroy (2017) presented that majority of position holders, both men, and women, possess masculine qualities rather than feminine because of the demands of their responsibilities. Schneider and Bos (2014) convey those female candidates are often thought of as lacking experience, track record, and capability to lead; thus, women leaders need to climb the ladder from the bottom to the top to establish their competency.
On the other hand, Brooks (2013) believed that citizens do not view gender in the contemporary age but focus solely on the capability to manage and resolve issues in the community. Moreover, the emotional behavior of the candidates, such as lashing out and other related emotional breakdowns, affects both genders and does not necessarily affect the female gender. Windett (2014) showcased a different point which entails that gender ideology can benefit the female gender when the feminine qualities suit their political agenda.
Feminine qualities such as good listeners and a caring and loving nature can positively contribute to the ability of the female leaders to cater to the concerns of their constituents; therefore, strong leadership is sometimes unfit for some circumstances. Williams (1998) discussed it could also depend on the context of society, referring to the 1992 elections where a considerable number of female candidates ran and were elected to the office due to the rising number of sexual harassment and exclusion of women participation in political issues. This implies that there could be a case-to-case basis during elections.
Moreover, electing women leaders also contribute to the representation of the marginalized who have unique experiences that need to be addressed. The number of women in the office can also encourage more women to participate in meaningful discussions and be motivated to vote during elections. The need for women to be involved in these essential involvements is to highlight the issues and concerns that women experienced that need to be resolved. Women leaders possess different traits and styles of leadership compared to their counterparts, illustrating another method of administration.
It is essential to continue to push for representation to put light on women's experiences, particularly the struggles and obstacles that need to be resolved and addressed. Women should be able to decide how to handle women-specific matters rather than letting the male-elected officials choose these issues without the grasp and understanding of their effect on women.
The view of the society of women might have changed, but there are remaining biases such as stereotypes and sexist perspective that needs to be overcome. This could be attributed to patriarchal values and norms from the predeceasing generations. Although women have not lacked in the efforts to illustrate their capability to lead, individuals still associate gender without a reasonable basis. Women in leadership positions enabled a different version of leadership from their counterparts; thus, there should be a platform supported by the many since it can be beneficial. Women have exerted years of initiatives to fight for their place in government positions; they do not do all these movements to be still hindered.
Women leaders can still be revolutionized in their respective fields; they are only waiting for the opportunity to do so. Nevertheless, women leaders such as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, Vice President Leni Robredo of the Philippines, and Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark suffered from doubts and criticism because of their gender. Still, it is visible that they can deliver their duties well. Leadership in governance does not need to be strict and assertive; rather, it can be comforting and loving. Maybe it is the time to reflect on what kind of leadership and character society needs, especially in a crisis.
Photo Credit: The Guardian
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