Female leaders shouldn't be expected to be 'Wonder Woman'

"We have to ask ourselves, should we treat all leaders the same?"

Are we there yet?
Angela Zepeda
SVP, Managing Director
Innocean

Tell us about one thing that's happened recently that leads you to believe there's still a problem.

As a female leader, I am often expected to be warm and accommodating in the workplace, much more so than my male counter parts. And I am not alone. Women are conditioned over time to be the one to bend the ear or lend a helping hand, often at the expense of their own work and ultimately, their own career growth and perception as a senior leader. The questions that I find myself asking are: "are women expected to be more approachable than our male counterparts? Is it right or even fair to expect differences in approach because of gender?" Because women are seen as more approachable and understanding, co-workers feel comfortable confiding in and asking for advice, which can take away time from doing the role we were hired to do – manage and grow our companies.

This is hard spot to be in – there’s a pressure to be seen as a holistic leader, a mentor, a shoulder to lean on, but also to be smart, competent and tough. We’re expected to be wonder woman! It can be an exhausting task that is given little recognition or credit.

It’s the old "catch-22." We have to ask ourselves, should we treat all leaders the same?

How about something that proves we're making progress?

There are still not enough women represented in positions of senior leadership. There are some days when I walk into the room and I’m the only woman there, but in the same breath I see more and more opportunities for women to make an impact.

More recently, I’ve noticed that my perspective is appreciated not because of my gender, but because of my expertise in the space and the caliber of work that landed me in this position. I appreciate these moments the most, as I’m not looked at as a woman, but a respected colleague above all else. And of course, people are truly beginning to understand the importance of a diverse perspective, outside of the quotas that organizations are trying to achieve.

What else needs to be done to get there?

There’s no "one and done" solution that will fix this complex, complicated problem.  However, it would be extremely depressing if we were having the same conversation five or 10 years from now. Something that has always resonated with me, was ‘treat people how you would want to be treated.’ As simple and elementary as it sounds, when you take the time to understand where your team member, coworker, or customer is coming from, and relate to him or her from that place, you are demonstrating the highest respect and the most authentic form of inclusion in the workplace. 

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