Girls Don’t Want to be Leaders? Perhaps it’s Time We Redefine Leadership

Current Trends by Natasha Sapp

Indeed it does seem about time, long past time we do so paralleling new research surveys on girls dwindling desire to lead up against the latest trail blazers, the latest women and girls breaking down barriers, our sincere cultural wish for that to continue, to inspire the next generation to move beyond even where we are today.  History makers dominating headlines, being the first female to coach or referee the NFL for example, the inspiring story of Misty Copeland overcoming obstacles to reach new heights in ballet, contrasted against books like Lean In, Thrive and the ongoing debate concerning a crisis of confidence among women, criticizing how women are doing things in the workplace, managing their careers. But is it more than girls who fear being disliked over not being a leader, girls who don’t want to be identified by their peers as bossy, translated by the littlest ones, littlest girls into constantly telling others what to do?  Is it truly as simple as banning bossy, discontinuing the use of the word bossy as something bad, a negative synonym for leader; rather redefining the parameters of the word bossy to be congruent with concepts like leader, good at handling the responsibility of being in charge, good at organizing others in a way that achieves goals, gets things done, good at setting an example, being a role model to classmates, those younger than them contrasted against far less capable and flattering statements alleging, implying manipulation, coercion, downright bullying? Is it still more social paradigms within society that still, in the 21st century, need to change, blockades and barriers from unlikely sources continuing to hold girls, women, of all ages, back from their full potential, or is it the stated aspirations of the women themselves? Not necessarily falling for the conservative, tea party rewind to the 1950’s holding to beliefs the primary place for women is in the home, her primary function is children and family; instead women, even in their youngest years, who have talents, attributes to contribute that don’t fit into categories like intense manual labor, business, sports management or seeking a life in entertainment that will shatter hitherto stereotyped glass ceilings? Women who would do their best work, thrive having more social interactions within their jobs, knowing their job, their overall work had a deeper purpose than providing her with a paycheck, striving to help people, give back to their community, improve society, their country on the flipside of just stopping at holding a position, being boss, being in charge of a company, achieving a specific job title? It appears the problem isn’t girls who don’t want to be leaders, don’t want to excel at something, even reach the top of their dreamed about career goal/ladder, the problem is girls don’t want to be leaders as we, society, these book writers, and others like them, define the term. No one has yet told them, or us, commenters on the subject from every aspect of American life, you can be a leader, less by how far up on the career ladder you go, achieving a ranking labeling you the boss, the person in charge of X task, space, vital to wherever you work and  be more effective, influential, inspirational and impactful on the world by shining where you are, being a beacon where you are just by being who you are, being your best self, doing what is in your heart not being dictated and bogged down by what is expected of you, the dreams and goals others have for you superseding those you have for yourself. Worthy advice glaringly needed by all those commenting on what girls are indicating about their projected futures in leadership, sounding the alarm about how few want to take on the distinction, as if it were as daunting as president of the United States, as if it were as serious as the singularly most important job in the world, fearing girls will no longer be trail blazers based on their current expressed opinions on the subject, fearing there will be no women to continue the inroads already made. Making the monumental miscalculation between girls, teens, tweens, women across young demographics, older ones too for that matter, who don’t believe they can accomplish leadership, because society won’t let them, think they don’t have a future in leadership because they lack required abilities, attributes, needed confidence and girls who are telling us very openly via these results or their own words, I don’t want it. Yes I know I have the choice, but I don’t want it.

https://gma.yahoo.com/surprising-reason-girls-arent-learning-leaders-142336671–abc-news-parenting.html

Top reasons why girls are shunning leadership, according to the newest information, bear out key points made by leading women like Sheryl Sandberg, discouragement from teen boys, society at large, parents, other adults; the Good Morning America parenting expert speculating from parents who’ve seen the hard road their daughters will go down if they choose leadership, assertive, no nonsense approaches and determination, the backlash they most likely will land in the middle of. And an astonishing acceptance by young people of the status quo at least when it came to women and politics, only 8% saying they favored female political leaders and their added comments remarking men have always lead so it’s what they are used to, others calling it a mostly male dominated sphere. Surprising to researchers, competition, pressure girls felt from other girls, reports of feeling threatened by their successes in school as opposed to exercising girl solidarity, something they highlight needs to change along with according to author of Odd Girl Out, founder of Girls Leadership, changing up the chores at home, having boys do inside cleaning, care giving and girls do yard work rather than falling back on gender defaults. Also important in your household, lose comments about doing things like a girl when referring to a guy being weak and don’t get bummed out when your daughter doesn’t want to wear a dress, prefers a ball over a doll; you could have the next Mo’ne Davis, the little league pitcher sensation who just happens to be a girl. But even here it’s easy to see researchers probably missed the bigger picture, the larger point, girls solidarity may have never been there in American society to begin with emphasized in the modern age by movies like Mean Girls, cat fights posted on social media, social media reinforcing who is or isn’t pretty enough, who is or isn’t well liked thanks to Facebook and Instagram, yet boys solidarity no longer exists either, at least for the younger generation. The old boys club and male privilege cronyism, usually white male cronyism, only operates among older adults in specific high profile jobs chiefly CEOs and politicians; further, through that lens, that makes everyone a threat in school, regardless of gender, especially considering the cut throat race to get into the best colleges, to have a prayer in the world at getting a job on the other end. Speaking to the strikingly low number of girls, budding young women who crave female political leaders; male dominated not, forgotten today is how many people loath, despise, want nothing to do with politics. Young people falling generally into one of 2 categories: those who are eager to get involved, an interesting number of young millennials, gen Zers getting behind the conservative platform in 2012. Or those who virtually ignore politics, see all politicians as old, crust bucket, talking heads who can’t get anything done, are running the country into the ground; sentiments echoed when the, now presidential candidate, Ted Cruz’s, inspired government shut down closed national parks, monuments across the country. The latter set however feeling there isn’t anyone better out there to vote for; while they may possess some better ideas on how to run the country more efficiently, achieve more sizable goals pertaining to our future, they don’t want to be involved in the, they sense hugely corrupted, process to get elected to the smallest offices available to make a difference, never mind the larger ones. Feeling intrinsically no one will listen to them when they do get there, attitudes again transcending gender. Keep in mind not everything boils down to simply gender bias holding girls back, Misty Copeland is certainly an inspiration to overcoming obstacles, is a credit to her gender and ethnicity; sadly her obstacles had more to do with her love of a sport, field, arena steeped in tradition. Ballet, only accepting a singular, very stylized body type instructors, judges didn’t believe she met closely enough, embodied completely, calling her too muscular and too short. Unfortunate though the comparison, it’s like a dog show, to win best in show you must embody all the characteristics of the breed perfectly, many of them physical traits you cannot alter through grooming, training, teaching, in human terms, exercise and body conditioning; Copeland triumphed by ignoring her critics and persevering until someone saw her skill over her “lacking” physical attributes. Addressing specifically given tips for parents, whether you call a girl bossy or say thanks for speaking up, as a parent charged with teaching kids right from wrong, appropriate behavior depends on are they bossing their siblings around in a bad way, trying to take charge of things that are for mom and dad to decide or are they actually just speaking up, adjusting your response accordingly. To the phrase doing it like a girl meaning weak, there is an argument to be made for there being something odd, if not outright wrong, with doing something like a girl that involves strength, muscle when you are a guy considering girls physiologically have less muscle mass than boys, could even be a sign of a medical problem. Balance seems to be the best approach here, not letting your sons talk about that in constantly picking on a sibling, neighbor, not letting them disparage a girl’s attempt to throw a ball, build something, do an activity perceived as masculine using such language. Changing up chores is always a good idea, keeps one child from always doing the same thing and teaches kids how to do all the things they will have to do once out on their own; lastly here, the greatest thing you can do as a parent for your child, independent their gender, is let them be who they are, let your girl play with sports balls, wear “boys” clothes, express interest in a male dominated field if they want to, letting them be the ‘girly girl, princess, nail polish and dresses if that’s what makes them happy, whether your little girl ever mows the lawn or not.

Then examining girls and leadership, what might be influencing their decisions you have to look at the female leaders, examples being given to girls today; more than who we glorify as a culture, the supermodel, the stick thin fashion model, the pretty people, singers, dancers, actresses, more than who they don’t see in the career position, job field they would like to go into, it’s who they do see, less than admirable persons out in the world with 2 X chromosomes. Form cat fights in Wal-Mart to people in public they watch act like women appearing on Jerry Springer, The Maury Povich show shattering the idea its all actors and scripted similar to wrestling, women throwing fits, engaging in complete meltdowns, harassing store clerks, smacking their kids around, harassing young people their age over skateboards, daring to walk on their lawn; they are asking why would I want to emulate that?  Moving specifically to women in power, in positions of leadership and authority there is  how they use what was given to them, or don’t use it. Whether it’s the barking teacher at school, who is yes a woman and also never satisfied, seems to personify PMS, the older administrator insisting on enforcing an arcane dress code better suited to a nunnery than a school, ironically with no air conditioning, the friend’s mom, girl scout leader, after school activity director who you would swear is the incarnation of worst of  Kate Goslin treating those around them with contempt and distain; every girl, young woman, middle aged, successful woman has met another woman in some position of power, holding some authority over something who gave women in charge, possessing leadership a bad name. Acting like persons depicted in The Devil Wears Prada, loosely based on actual job experiences had by interns in career areas such as fashion; granted this shows every indication of being a trait in bosses all, Steve Jobs known for being a Tyrant, Bill Gates pegged difficult to work with, older millennials probably remember Mr. Spacely from The Jetsons.  We may count it a sign of the current generation’s weak, spoiled ways raised by over colliding parents, that “you can’t be harsh, authoritative with them, have to behave like their therapist,” leaving us to muddle through with their mess, biting our nails at the country’s impending doom if this is who is left in charge, but women are looking at it saying, if the former, the opposite is what it takes to be a leader to get to the top, no thank you. More, especially young people, are doubtlessly looking at first lady Michelle Obama for 2 distinctly different reasons, A- she is true a no nonsense parent who is clearly in charge of her children and has standards, imposes rules, despite living in the Whitehouse insists they make their beds, there’s no TV on school nights, mandates healthy meals and impeccable manners, yet in comes off as one word, mean. Sparking questions, where is the love, nurturing, care supposed to come from a mother; easy to see tweens, teens, 20 something’s hoping to raise a family one day thinking: I won’t treat my children that way. B- one of the things touched on by The Good Morning America author and interviewed guest, unmentioned by researchers is how much girls are effected by images in media, reactions to pictures on social media feeding ever present insecurity about their looks; next they see, admire the first lady’s undeniable sense of style, obviously good physical condition, outfits chosen to flatter her physique. Bristling at controversies surrounding her bear arms, bear shoulders, how that is viewed by sections of the public as inappropriate, unbecoming a first lady. Saying I don’t want my leadership quality, skill to be distilled down to my outfit, my makeup, earrings, lack of either, be a commentary on my fashion sense ignoring my business sense, my political sense, my prowess in social work, medicine, whatever my career, so until that changes I’ll stay right where I am. The major problem with Hillary Clinton today  stems from 2 sources, depending on your perspective; hint  isn’t her brusque and pushy manner, channeling the formerly described the same way home improvement queen Martha Stewart, it isn’t her wardrobe, pant suites and implied androgyny,  inappropriate attire for someone in the positions she’s held, is aspiring to hold.  It is according to many conservatives, citizens on alert for the dubious and untoward,  her opulent wealth and her sense of untrustworthiness with the American people, in a generation demanding transparency, shadowed by Edward Snowden and the wiki leaks scandal, only to find out she had a private e-mail address, ‘secret server’ as secretary of state. Or vice versa shameless attacks by conservatives on the few women in power, relentless attack dogging Clinton over Benghazi less in the interest of truth, identifying genuine incompetence, preventing further loss of American life, just more of a witch hunt to take down a rival, a person they believe shouldn’t have ever been given the job, the least of which because she has ovaries. Lois Lerner and the ‘missing’ e-mails related to the IRS scandal, critics, indicters when asked what law she broke, what smoking gun they had couldn’t answer; apparently pretending hard drives don’t crash, simultaneously alleging she was supposed to have saved, backed up, kept record of  every scrap of paper, document pertaining to her office.  Loretta Lynch, was it really her stance on immigration, her alignment with president Obama on contentious issues for republicans delaying her attorney general conformation, the fact that she, to them represented another black person being given a job because the president is black and he is determined to do for ‘his people,’ as if that weren’t reprehensible enough a thought, or was it because she was a woman, a toxic mixture of all 3?  Overwhelming message being sent by our forthcoming generation of female leaders, who we hope will take up after us, I don’t want to be that person, the person I would have to be to fill the shoes of a CEO, COO, boss at a major company, that bitchy, barking, micromanaging psycho that has several workers spanning all spectrums praying the glass ceiling stays where it is and doesn’t break entirely. Pity no one told them it doesn’t have to be that way, advised them to embark on a journey of starting their own company where it isn’t that way, changing the rules of the corporate workplace, every workplace to where it isn’t that way, not just for women but for men too.

Continuing there is both how prominent women got to their powerful, influential places in American society, to where we know their names and what they have done with it since, Sheryl Sandberg and Arianna Huffington, for all they say in their books directing women on how to get to the top, chastising women for sitting back too much, obsessing over responsibilities they don’t have yet, family, kids causing them to leave before they leave, failure to negotiate, to speak up for better pay, better treatment; they left out arguably the deciding factor in their success, that they were able to parley being born into affluence and influence and a family business respectively into more of the same. Both latching onto men who bettered their standings, fortune and reach through marriage or coyly convincing men to take them along for the ride where they were going, not forging it alone. Marissa Mayer, mere months into her CEO job at Yahoo, banned telecommuting causing analysts and business people everywhere to scream hey, the 1980’s called they want their work environment back; female workers across the board decrying what she had done, explaining how telecommuting and flex time, hard fought for amenities in 21st century workplaces, help them work better, balance work and personal life, work and family, defying studies clearly indicating workers allowed to work when and how they wanted increased their productivity exponentially, ultimately working more, longer hours. Worse she made said move turning right around to build a nursery onto her office to take care of her 6 month old son pegging her a hypocrite; not unlike Sheryl Sandberg who cannot follow her own book’s advice, oversaw Facebook’s disastrous IPO and not only managed to keep her job, but came out soon after launching a campaign to ban bossy in order to give more girls a greater shot at leadership. Getting a surprising number of known, influential women to buy into, removing a word from the English language, moving it into political, social incorrectness will spontaneously and miraculously improve the futures of young girls, within a few short years correct, equal out a woman’s 77cents to every dollar made by a man; ha. So would a national mandate, federal law insisting on equal pay for equal work generated by a formula, not exclusively dependent on the individual’s negotiation skills, the subjective interpretation of those skills by a boss, bosses on the receiving end, concurrently banning salary secrecy in the workplace. Again giving women who appear to have it all, to have done it all, achieved the impossible, the damn near impossible bad name; at least the women now coaching in the NBA, refereeing the NFL exc. started where they could getting where they are by honing their skill and not taking no for an answer as opposed to conning men into giving them what they wanted, marrying into it. Yes Mo’ne Davis was taught by older brothers how to throw a spiral football, taught, trained and mentored by a male coach in baseball but it was her wiliness to absorb the teaching, her natural skill and ability that made the difference. Other women in positions of authority, power, notoriety have gotten there, stayed there by being, capitalizing on their own stupidity; we wish we were talking the Britney Spears, Nichole Richie, Paris Hilton, Snooki crowd.  Sadly not, though they too are a larger part of a growing problem for girls seeking role models; Sara Palin who, in 2012, beyond 2012 undeniably cultivated an image of ordinary, working class, hokey mom, mamma grizzly sure. But she works in the periphery of politics, once had her name on the ballot for Vice president and doesn’t know where the Whitehouse is, thinks Paul Revere tried to warn the British, writing a book on and touring America promoting such misinformation always in the next breath making fun of president Obama for his actions, calling them unconstitutional. Her cohort Michelle Bachmann frond of doing the same, once saying the shot heard round the world happened in New Hampshire as opposed to Massachusetts. In addition to advocating the women should be barefoot and pregnant motif, seeking to whitewash history books holding up historic women like Abigail Adams and Phyllis Schlafly intentionally leaving out figures like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth even Florence Nightingale; motivation housing more than a perceived racial component shaping what young women, children in school believe they can be to an increasingly conservative agenda, conservative picture of what America was and what they want it to be again. Women present on school boards where they did try to rewrite history curriculum rename the slave trade trans-Atlantic trade, call imperialism expansionism, things like that causing students to stage class walkouts and protests proving they understood more about America’s history, America’s legacy of civil disobedience and their legal right to protest peacefully than the adults making decisions about their education. Apart from just politics it’s Elisabeth Hasselbeck on The View and where she ended up afterwards, predictably added to the hosts of a Fox News morning show, a number of Fox News personalities, despite gender, who seem to live in a quite different reality than the rest of us, repeatedly turning off younger viewers. Mentioning The View, it’s how long Whoopi Goldberg took to come to the conclusion most of America already had regarding Bill Cosby as a probable sexual predator and serial rapist, how little facts she had actually absorbed on the subject terming it gossip, gold digging and a malicious attempt to take a good man down, ruin a positive legacy and how fast her attitude changed when someone was finally able to lay all the solid facts out before her.

Maybe just maybe being a leader isn’t solely about breaking barriers, being the first woman to do something, hold a particular position, securing that board seat, occupying congress, being CEO; sure designing engineering toys for girls is great and their creator obviously followed their passion in putting something traditionally thought of as for boys into an attractive format for young girls should they want it. Likewise employers recognizing potential and qualified workers seeing past gender, beyond social, societal stereotypes, who has always held the job is a must both for our economy and our future; hints the #ilooklikeanengineer trending on social media with women telling stories of their degrees in mathematics, physics, computer programming and jobs held, projects achieved using their education while keeping their femininity, looking like ordinary women who do other jobs all day, as if there ever should have been any doubt. Yet for all that striving to change toys, the aggression behind many campaigns to change things via social media or elsewhere, one of the things marking Jazz, possibly the youngest documented case of transgender transition and staunch transgender advocate, almost irrefutably transgender before we knew much about what that was, surpassing statements beginning when she could speak she was a girl not a boy, was her intense fascination with dresses, pink, dolls unicorns, mermaids, battling to wear dresses to preschool. She fought to play girls soccer despite her assigned genitalia because that’s what she identifies herself as and, contrary to school fears about a genetic boy playing on a girls team, size differences creating an opportunity for excess injury, Jazz remains the smallest girl on her team presenting no reason why she shouldn’t be allowed to play as who she feels she is. Most of Jazz’s fight for acceptance, understanding and inclusion however has encompassed her willingness, combined with that of her parents, to be open to the world in saying this is who I am, this is what it means for me and the transgender persons in your lives allowing TV cameras into their home, Jazz choosing to post videos on You Tube, choosing to be a spokesperson for the cause in her own way mainly by being simply who she is, a testament to making a difference creating an impact right where you are. Broadening that to the rest of us, persons minus special circumstances, outshining particular women’s desire to forgo bigger career challenges for an opportunity to raise a family, take that time with their children, women obtain 57% of the bachelor’s degrees only subsequently occupying 18% of seats in congress, 17% of the board seats chiefly because this generation gravitates to something besides power, obtaining those bachelor’s degrees toward nursing, social work, hospitality, gain certifications as CNA’s, home health aides, dental assistants, dental hygienists identically for job security and job satisfaction in people interaction, getting to see firsthand how they helped someone today. New examination of personalities has yielded results beyond are you simply an introvert or an extravert proving there is another option, a middle ground among human beings, an ambivert; persons who can literally switch from one to the other, doing well among people or at times excited about being alone. The CBS This Morning title to the story was a question ‘Can Ambiverts Lead from the Middle;’ challenging long held assumptions on what constitutes a leader, a good leader as a person who is bombastic, high energy, highly authoritative, exudes charisma remembering the calmer more steady persons likewise capable of leading toward just as needed objectives. Ambiverts representing the best of both worlds capable of being what is needed when it’s needed; take president Obama, often looked down on for his calm demeanor, his unflappable nature, seeing what the country has been through during the 7 years of his presidency, that calm has served us well. Equally don’t be fooled women don’t possess business skills, tenacity or confidence turning what would make them sharks in the boardroom, ideal on a sports field to setting up that not for profit, makes them prefect principals in schools because the do have tempered leadership qualities-oh.  But it has to be leadership their way, on their terms to be most effective; the largest flaw in the efforts of people like Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer is they’re too busy doing it like a man, telling us to do it like a man, they haven’t found their voice in leadership, their own methods, techniques turning many women off to any valid points they might be making, rendering them tone deaf to women’s concerns in the workplace, women who have done the leaning in, are fighting real gender bias in the workplace having nothing to do with their leadership skills or lack thereof, women who, at the present moment, have personal, other priorities where maybe CEO, COO is somewhere down the line in their career, their idea of where their career will go, not now.

The biggest problem in leadership, male or female, is people who haven’t learned the art of commanding respect as opposed to demanding it, getting people to follow you, do what you tell them because they believe in what you are doing, believe in your ability to direct a company, lead a project, achieve a goal; people who haven’t mastered you can be tough, exacting in your expectations while maintaining respect between you, the boss, and the people who work below you, maintain respect between workers based on how you go about being a boss, how you lead. What actually has us pranging the panic button is people writing books, starting campaigns who are abysmal at using, personifying their own tools, researchers asking girls, young women at all the wrong times about the subject whether it’s rooms of small children’s feelings on the word bossy, to middle school ages struggling enough with the pains of adolescence, the influences of peer group comprising their whole world during this time, then in college when young people are still trying to figure out who they are as maturing adults, how they fit into the adult world. Never thought of is that leadership, the desire for it in a positive way as opposed to those who are only enamored with power, want to be called boss and give orders, lord their authority over people, really regardless of gender, but particularly for women comes with age; wisdom and the solid application of knowledge being a part of that equation. Their arguments ignoring, serving to distract us from the real, true crisis that we lack leaders, that even the men in leadership positions are terrible at it; failing grades on that scale not limited to politics, sunk business ventures, outlandish, inappropriate behavior of people in power who happen to be male, but in schools where zero tolerance policies have made decision making and discretion irrelevant. That people who are well past knowing who they are, the awkwardness of your teens and 20’s, supposedly possessing the maturity that comes with your 30’s, 40’s, on down the line still don’t know how to lead; it’s this is the policy, this is the way things are and refer the angry mob of actual free thinkers up the bureaucratic food chain. And for all of our talk about bratty youth, out of control young people bucking the traditional trends of the workplace, millennials with their off the wall expectations, them being the catalyst for reinstituting the formal workplace dress code thanks to their glaring individuality, there are a surprising number of 20 something, early 30 something persons, seemingly having taken root, or refuge, in the school system that are models of respect al-a the 1950’s, are up on all the parenting books while addicted to the status quo, shocked when a parent doesn’t buy the respect your elders line, expects to be treated like a fellow adult on equal footing, is acquainted with their freedom of speech rights living in the United States of America, and has their BS detector intact not shunted, stunted, completely turned off by another bureaucracy. Still more who think being a leader is solely about being in charge, barking orders and having them followed, who think it is their due to be able to rage like a tyrant and no one say anything.  Here millennials hold the trump card, so what if you can’t rage like Mr. Spacely embody the mentally unbalanced to get them to do the work you need them to do, you hired them because they were skilled in something you lacked; god forbid you have to talk to your workers like fellow human beings with goals, priorities, gasp, you might not the top one on their list, not emotionless, programed with a few simple directives, robots. Proving the whole structure of leadership, our concept of leaders and leadership needs to change before more women, people period will engage; leadership based on commanding respect by demonstration of skill, working well with all types of people, cultivating a workplace of respect where everyone’s ideas are heard and discussed to reach X goal, improve things within departments, grow the company or create what a client wants. Understanding leadership takes on many facets usually involving a fair amount of mentoring whether you’re a leader in your workplace because the new employees always come to you seeking to learn the ropes or if it’s your willingness to help people resolve conflict, seeking tips on developing that winning presentation, make time to advise up and comings in the field; if this describes you, you too are a leader. Or if you find yourself like Jazz in a position with something to teach the country, the world as a whole, by holding your life, your existence, your accomplishments, your efforts towards something up as an example, just by essentially being who you are and refusing to back down, to change exponentially because a few say you should, that too is a form of leadership. Too bad researchers missed that, to this day don’t know that.

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About Natasha Sapp

Proclaiming an edgy voice of reason to America,while bringing back the common sense to social issues.

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