Leadership: A Curtsy, A Bow, or A Handshake?

Strong Female Leadership

Happy New Year everyone!

And a special Happy New Year to our USA southerly continental sister’s country of Brazil for ushering the new year with the inauguration of its first female President, Dilma Rousseff.  Folks, this is leadership news that is more noteworthy than Obama assuming office, and let me tell you why.

Anyone care to take a guess about Brazil’s politics in the last 50 years?

Here’s a snapshot that at least signifies the early stages of Brazil’s multi-decade dictatorship:

  • the late 60s ushered international support of Brazil’s dictatorship (a-hem, including the USA’s strong hand in it…),
  • the military displayed well-known and infamous “machismo”, echoed throughout its politics,
  • many left-wing “activists” considered against the dictatorship were persecuted and imprisoned, often tortured during their imprisonment as so many were… Dilma Rousseff was one such prisoner…

A New Dawn

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff This appointment both humbles and inspires me, and it should do the same for anyone and everyone who knows of this story, especially women.  As  I looked on in my warm Boston apartment, satisfied with knowing how relatively safe and at-least-for-now secure my family is in this country, the 3pm Brazil local time came and Dilma Rousseff officially become her country’s president.

In the company of my own imagination, I heard trumpets in the background, chimes ringing, crowds cheering, and doves flying overhead.  Brazil inaugurates their first female president.  BRAZIL.

Then I thought of our country and our political leadership.  The brightness of my imagination dimmed, the curtains closed, the trumpets fizzled, the chimes cracked, the crowds hushed, the doves fell to the ground like thuds of clay.  Back to reality.

“Hm,” I thought, “Why do we seem to lag in terms of female leaders in both the public and private sectors here?”  Yes, I know, it’s hardly a new question and there’s plenty out there to give us the numbers… but WHY is it taking so long to groom and appoint women to higher leadership roles?

Girl Power in Action

Perhaps the lag is parallel to my country’s history.  Maybe when it comes to a ‘gal’ we come by a ‘lag’ honestly.  After all, the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention in 1848 first initiated a movement to improve the quality of women’s lives in this country, one area being the allowance for women to vote as people and citizens of our country.

Coincidentally, it was only 71 more years before the US Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment.

Then it only took 14 more months before the Amendment was ratified, overcoming ridiculous delays and utterly audacious nuisances with political agendas pushing the anti-suffrage ticket beyond boundaries out of spite (sound familiar, folks?).  Imagine how long it would have taken if we had 24 hour news and the Internet back then?  … but I digress…

So why should we care about the current lag regarding women serving in higher leadership roles for the private and public sectors?  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know– appointing women to higher levels of leadership would raise innovation, reduce risk, produce much-needed new ways of thinking and problem-solving, promote a better utilization of (on and on and on, supported by data).

But think about it: August of 2020 will herald the centennial celebration of women being allowed to vote.  I mean, what’s the rush to push ladies into more leadership roles, haven’t we done enough in nearly 100 years?

OK, relax.  I promise I won’t make this into a bench-beating anti-man all-pro-women spoon of medicine.  For those who review my blogs each month, you know that’s not my style.  Instead, I DO promise to lace in my usual humor and (a-hemsarcasm as I make my point.  After all, if it weren’t for those two characteristics I hardly think any of Jane Austen’s heroines would have been noteworthy.

(some of you will get that… everyone else, just read on…)

Fifty Fifty

Dilma Rousseff’s appointment as President marks the latest addition to a list of 50 female Presidents in the Guide to Women Leaders site.  Um… that’s not just recently, folks.   That’s a TOTAL of 50 female presidents placed in office around the world on this particular list, recorded since about 1940.Female Executive

That’s right, FIFTY.  That number is just a little over the number of presidents our own (albeit young) country has had in total.

With the age-old joke of how public sector lags private sector (there’s that pesky word “lag” again), I started to think about women in the private sector– I’m one such woman, by the way– and I remembered an interesting study from Catalyst, a study I first read about in Harvard Business Review a few of months ago.  What are we missing?

The Catalyst study found that while women are finally getting on “emerging executive” lists with a full plate of expected leadership development courses and high-potential mentoring, they aren’t getting what they really need: effective sponsorship from senior leaders.

Further stated by Catalyst’s President and Chief Executive Officer Ilene H. Lang:

“Jumpstarting women’s advancement takes commitment fueled by urgency… Our research points to a solution [high-level sponsorship] that can narrow the gender leadership gap and supercharge the leadership pool—making corporate America more competitive in the process.”

Meanwhile, as Brazil brings in its first female president to stand among several other national Presidents who are female, I wonder what we can do to continue this trend of women leading in the highest of positions.

And as a culture and society, will we curtsy, bow, or give a handshake?

With all the data out there supporting what a female’s perspective could do in terms of offering new ideas and different perspectives (and how that lends to a competitive advantage during a time when the US needs to become more competitive), what do you think is taking so long? What can we, as truest most passionate supporters of furthering the best leadership possible—what can we do to support what is needed?

Christa (Centola) Dhimo, President & Founder, via Best Practices
She helps clients by aligning human capital performance with business results

Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog

Image Sources: jalilart.com, novinite.com, anagersanddirectors.files.wordpress.com

3 responses to “Leadership: A Curtsy, A Bow, or A Handshake?

  1. Pingback: Leadership: A Curtsy, A Bow, or A Handshake? | LEADERSHIP WINS·

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