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Where Are the Women? They Are Everywhere!

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Sunday Olukoju
March 24, 2015


According to Samantha Paustian-Underdahl, Lisa Walker and David Woehr, in a 2014 Journal of Applied Psychology article titled “Gender and perceptions of leadership effectiveness: A meta-analysis of contextual moderators,” “Results show that when all leadership contexts are considered, men and women do not differ in perceived leadership effectiveness.” This was based on quantitative summary of “gender differences in perceptions of leadership effectiveness across 99 independent samples from 95 studies,” and this is “despite evidence that men are typically perceived as more appropriate and effective than women in leadership positions.” However, “when other-ratings only are examined, women are rated as significantly more effective than men,” but “when self-ratings only are examined, men rate themselves as significantly more effective than women rate themselves.”

Sunday march

One could infer that while men are overtly confident, women may be less likely. It could also mean a sense of false/poor assessment on the part of men, while women are less likely to give undue importance to certain important things they do and see as daily routine. It could just portray women as hard assessors whose criteria of excellence and effectiveness are tougher. Whatever it is, many women may inadvertently disqualify themselves from leadership positions on the false assumption that they may never be as effective as the position requires. This may also affect self confidence, and could explain why fewer women present themselves for public office, despite the number of competent and electable women.

Where Are The Women?

Of the 2014-2018 Winnipeg City Hall Council, we have only four women out of the 16 members, representing a meager 25 percent. This is against the backdrop of a report by Economic Development Winnipeg that put the population by sex (census metropolitan areas 2014 postcensal estimates) at 386,292 for men, representing 49.36 percent and 396,348 for women, representing 50.64 percent of the total 782,640 citywide population. Of the 56 MLAs in Manitoba province (with one absent seat), 16 MLAs are women, representing about 29 percent against 40 male, representing 71 percent. Again, the total number of females in the province (644.6 representing 50.28 percent) is slightly higher than the total number of males (637.4 representing 49.72 percent) of the almost 1.3 million inhabitants.

The trend is no different at the federal level. Out of the 306 current Canadian members of parliament (MPs) (with two vacant seats), 77 are female (representing about 25 percent of MPs) while 229 are male (representing approximately 75 percent) of all MPs. According to Statistics Canada, “Women and girls comprise just over half of Canada’s population” as “17.2 million females accounted for 50.4 percent of the total population” in 2010.

The U.S. shares similar record with her counterpart north of the border, with 98 women “in both chambers combined,” and “still low compared to the U.S. population” since “women compose slightly more than half of the national population” while the “the record numbers of women in the Senate and House of Representatives – 20 and 77 (not including three non-voting delegates), respectively (18 percent in total) – still comprise a minority of national legislative representatives.” Despite “nearly 2,000 senators in the history of Congress, only 44 have been female” as unpacked by Karen Kunz and Carrie Staton, in a 2013 Public Voices article titled “Engaging Women in Public Leadership in West Virginia.”

At the global level, Kirsten Haack, in a 2014 Global Governance article titled “Women’s Representation and Leadership at the United Nations,” concluded that Christine Lagarde’s appointment in 2011 to the leadership of the International Monetary Fund, “shows that leadership and representation by women in global governance continues to be curtailed by “glass walls” on the one hand, and flexible glass ceilings on the other” because “women are channeled into gender-specific portfolios, creating glass walls,” and that “glass ceilings, once shattered, may indeed resettle as recent staff changes by Ban Ki-moon show.” One is therefore bound to ask: Where are the women in top leadership positions at the local, state, federal and global levels despite their commanding population, especially if democracy is truly a game of numbers?

Concluding Thoughts

By sheer population, women are everywhere. But as Karen Kunz and Carrie Staton rightly noted, a proactive engagement like one spearheaded by Hillary Rodham Clinton in the push for more women in public service around the globe is necessary. Initiatives that will propel more women to positions of influence in governments and civic organizations like the 2013 Women in Public Service Project should be promoted.

Women should be trained to identify, appreciate and promote other effective and efficient women in public sector leadership. Women should not underestimate or under-appreciate other effective women in leadership. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) Namibia identified cultural reasons (lack of female role models/mentoring opportunities, work/life challenges and perceived lack of flexibility, gender stereotyping); and personal reasons (women’s reluctance to self- promote and to take risks, career interruptions due to family responsibilities, and lack of confidence/self-belief) as some of the reasons why fewer women occupy leadership positions. Tips offered include becoming proactive, building self-confidence, and balancing work and family among others. These tips could be useful for women generally.

AuthorSunday Akin Olukoju, Ph.D. is the president of Canadian Center for Global Studies, a nonprofit organization and also teaches at Athabasca University in Alberta, CanadaOlukoju can be reached at [email protected].

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