It's a fact that has been known for centuries; women leaders lead differently from their male counterparts. I have a few hobbies, one of which is studying ancient civilizations. I am talking about really old establishments, communities, nations, for that matter. Many of these civilizations are now shown to pre-date the great flood! I know this takes some getting used to for those of us who were taught that life, as we know it, is just a little over 2500 years. But I digress.
I raised the study of ancient civilizations to make this point. Archeological evidence gleaned from sites such as ancient Egypt, ancient Sudan, Mesopotamia (mostly modern-day Iraq), and ancient Mayan and Incan civilizations, to name a few, point to periods of peace and periods of extreme war and unrest.
Upon closer examination, experts noticed during the periods when these civilizations were ruled or headed up by a woman; there was a correlation with more peace. More creativity and a greater sense of connectedness to the Earth, the cosmos and to fellow humans. There was a stronger balance between the arts and the sciences.
A beautiful example of this finding is during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut as Pharaoh of Egypt in C.1473-58 BCE. She reigned as queen regent for the first seven years, while her stepson, Thutmose III, the true heir to the throne, was an infant. Eventually, queen Hatshepsut was bestowed the full title of Pharoh. Later, she co-ruled with Thutmose III, and history tells us she was the dominant Pharoh then.
Her reign is remembered as mostly peaceful. It is said she focused on rebuilding important cities, trading expeditions, and tree planting. She is remembered for building significant temples, which played a massive and overall important role in ancient Egyptian culture.
Upon Queen Hatshepsut's death, her stepson took over the throne. Sadly, he went about to immediately remove all evidence that a woman had ruled. Her statues were torn down. Her name was erased from the official King's list, and her monuments were defaced. The theory behind this is, he wanted to keep a straight line of male Kings with no indication of female rule. Tsk. Tsk.
Reflecting on today's corporate board rooms and senior leadership teams (SLTs) in organizations, I am encouraged to see more seats are occupied by women. I also know that though more female bums are in these senior leadership seats, women's voices are not always allowed to be heard in their truest and most authentic way. Recently, a female senior executive in a large Canadian corporation shared with me that she was told by her predominantly white male colleagues that she is different. She happens to be a white female executive championing a diversity, equity, and inclusion cause.
Just like Queen Hatshepsut, female executive leaders are different from their male counterparts. More than their biological differences, female leaders, for the most part, do rule with more of a balanced approach. Though we have had exceptions over the years where some women leaders approached leadership from a masculine point of view. This tendency for some women leaders to lead in this way, not being true to their authentic self, not honouring their own voice, could very well be a survival tactic.
At the end of the day, these women leaders have responsibilities that may squeeze them to take on masculine ways of leadership rather than honouring their own style. I do empathize with them. Queen Hatshepsut is said to dress like a male, wearing a false beard and male clothing! She even dabbled in war at the very beginning of her reign but quickly abandoned this divisive route.
When female leaders face reluctance to be accepted and included by their male counterparts, it is not surprising that some resort to tactics similar to Queen Hatshepsut. My personal experience working with SLTs support what the literature tells us about how women at these high levels of professional responsibilities tend to lead.
However, I believe deeply that boards, shareholders, and communities would all reap greater rewards if the difference women leaders bring to organizations is actively sought out and celebrated.
There is a mounting need for a balancing of leadership. The historical tendency for one white, able-bodied, heterosexual, married male to head up a corporation has done little to serve the masses. As a society, we can and must do better.
What if 21st-century organizations started hiring not one but two CEOs to head up an organization? Split the salary in two. Here's the radical part of this challenge; one CEO must be a woman, the other a man. They would co-rule. This is where the balancing out would take place but is contingent on the woman being able to be her true self. The success of this co-ruling is also contingent on bringing women from BIPOC communities to the leadership forefront, refraining from keeping SLTs all white.
As it was in ancient Egypt and other really old civilizations, women were consciously and unconsciously discriminated against simply because of their gender. Today, eliminating conscious bias and taking steps to learn about unconscious bias within your organizations ensures all employees experience your organization as diverse, equitable, and inclusive. This allows for the development of talent from diverse ethnic, gender, cultural, sexual orientation, and other human backgrounds.
Starting June 9th & 16th, 2021, we are offering you an opportunity to experience learning more about Unconscious Bias and your role in helping to level the playing field of life. In this course, you will have the opportunity to use tools and techniques to create awareness of your own and other's unconscious biases and how to address them safely, tactfully, and diplomatically. Please click here for more details.
P.S. If there is any aspect of this article and previous ones that resonate with you, please drop us a line and let us know. You do not have to agree with the views shared here. Your perspective is welcomed.
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