Women in Leadership Roles

Women as leaders – something I’ve spent time thinking about recently, and as one of the latest participants of the Leadership Academy, something that remains on my mind.
I was pleased to see that this year’s Leadership Academy has a larger number of women participating than men, although it shouldn’t be surprising – there are more women in the workforce than ever before. Unfortunately, more women in the workforce doesn’t actually translate to more women in leadership roles. Even in my predominately-female populated profession, men still proportionately hold more leadership positions.

What is holding women back from reaching leadership positions? Beyond sex discrimination, there are women still working in hostile work environments, facing negative stereotypes about women as leaders, as well as facing whatever implicit biases about women that exist.

How many of us have heard: “Don’t take it personally,” or “Why are you getting emotional about this” or some more subtle version of these statements? How many times have you worried, even in the tiniest way, that you are coming across as too aggressive, too “angry”; that if you had been born male, no one would have said those things to you and you would not have thought that of yourself? I’m fortunate that in my career, I’ve worked for and with women who have been supportive of me and my professional growth. But, I have it easier; I’m a white woman; women of color are far less fortunate than I am.

I don’t know the answer to how we combat what centuries of history has built, but maybe a good starting point would be to be more mindful. Be mindful of the choices we make when choosing someone for a leadership role; be mindful about what we say and how we say it; be mindful about to whom you provide professional support; be mindful when recruiting in your places of employment.
Just, be more mindful.

Dana Russell is the Senior Manager of Children’s Services at the Aurora Public Library and earned her Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from University of Illinois-Champaign Urbana. She has worked in public libraries for over 20 years.

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