Women in Leadership, a Cognitive and Psychological Approach

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mehrbanoo Hosseinirad and Mohadeseh Alizadeh, third-year medical students at the Ardabil University of Medical Science, Iran. They are affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Finding “the right man for the job” has been appropriately updated to “the right person for the job.” However, despite the improvements in gender-neutral language, leadership has been biasedly perceived as a position best suited to the male character. Why do women still lag behind men in leadership positions, while cognitive research shows that women’s leadership styles can be effective in critical emergency circumstances?

With the individual differences taken into account, some behavioral studies indicate that males and females act differently under pressure by using several strategies with various risk tolerances and at different speeds (Lighthall 2012). The critical matter, however, is that we should not limit the discussion to stereotypical gender-based contrasts.

Supporting the behavioral and cognitive differences, one clue is that women are more “Tending & Befriending” in the workplace. It is a model of the stress response and can shed the light on why women and men might differ in their approach to leading individuals and teams, particularly in times of crisis and challenge.

UCLA health psychologist Shelley Taylor proposes that women often respond to challenging and stressful situations by protecting themselves and others through nurturing behaviors (tending), expressing emotions, and socializing (befriending). While, in contrast, the classic “Fight or Flight” response is less notable in women. Indeed, in conflict circumstances, women may have a biological predisposition (mediated by pro-social peptides), Taylor points out, to become more affiliative, caring, nurturing, and emotionally expressive compared to men. This theory supports the idea that women are likely to express more participative, collaborative, and transformational demonstrations of leadership under pressure compared to their male counterparts.

In most countries, women make up about 45 to 55 percent of medical students, while this statistical parity is not being echoed in medical leadership. From sexist promotional practices to the predisposed assumptions that women are excessively “nice” to be leaders, these factors result in women not being as readily considered for leadership positions (Chaffins, Forbes, Fuqua, & Cangemi, 1995; Fletcher, Jordan, & Miller, 2000).

Because women occupy a higher percentage of lower-status positions, their leadership potential is less visible. They are also less integrated into dominant organizational coalitions, which reduces their opportunities of receiving proper mentoring and being selected for leadership positions (Bass, 1985).

Considering all of the above, what are some factors that could help bring this gender gap to its knees? We should consider both intrinsic and external factors impartially. Ruderman and Ohlott (2005) noted that “self-clarity allows women to grow by enabling them to recognize their values so they can live authentically, improve their ability to connect with others, and make choices that produce feelings of wholeness”. Cognitive and behavioral changes can help to solidify women’s leadership identities.

Moreover, creating formal mentoring programs for women, encouraging peer-mentoring, and offering support when caring for children or ill family members are among effective mitigation strategies. These policies, if undertaken by authorities and medical leaders, could lead to a healed system for both men and women seeking leadership.

About the author

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mehrbanoo Hosseinirad and Mohadeseh Alizadeh, third-year medical students at the Ardabil University of Medical Science, Iran. They are affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

European Commission: the LED lights of your Audi A6 shall save our planet

A new approach to scaling-up renewable power in emerging markets

Ensure that widows are ‘not left out or left behind’, UN chief urges on International Day

COVID-19 wave III and the lessons learned

Threats from mammoth banks and Brussels fuel May’s poll rates

EU and Amazon cut deal to end antitrust investigation over e-books deals

MEPs urge EU countries to be transparent about their COVID-19 vaccine supplies

Here’s how private investors can turn plastic into gold

Still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in all EU countries

Africa is set to get its first vertical forest

‘Millions facing starvation’ – Global political and business leaders on the economic impact of COVID-19

How the gender commuting gap could be harming women’s careers

Will 2020 be the year blockchain overcomes its hype?

Progress in medical research: leading or lagging behind?

Bacteria vs. humans: how to fight in this world war?

The future of energy is being shaped in Asia

What we know and what we don’t know about universal basic income

The first new university in the UK for 40 years is taking a very different approach to education

OECD household income up 0.7% in first quarter of 2018, outpacing GDP growth

First seat projections for the next European Parliament

The energy industry is changing. Are governments switched on?

What is the IMF telling Eurozone about fiscal and banking unification?

Trump ‘used’ G20 to side with Putin and split climate and trade packs

Re-thinking citizenship education: bringing young people back to the ballot box

Commission issues guidance on the participation of third country bidders in the EU procurement market

Car rentals: EU action leads to clearer and more transparent pricing

What’s going on in Chernobyl today?

Here’s how we get businesses to harmonize on climate change

Why are the Balkans’ political leaders meeting in Geneva this week?

Support for EU remains at historically high level despite sceptics

US pardons for accused war criminals, contrary to international law: UN rights office

European Business Summit 2015: In search of a vision for the future

Brexit casts a shadow over the LSE – Deutsche Börse merger: a tracer of how or if brexit is to be implemented

Migrants and refugees face higher risk of developing ill-health, says UN report on displaced people in Europe

Autumn 2019 Standard Eurobarometer: immigration and climate change remain main concerns at EU level

Stop the waste: UN food agencies call for action to reduce global hunger

The term AI overpromises. Let’s make machine learning work better for humans instead

How blended finance helped to keep energy supplies flowing during COVID-19

What will a post-pandemic economy look like? Here’s what chief economists expect

Innovation is the key to the pay-TV industry’s long-term growth

Mergers: Commission approves GlaxoSmithKline’s acquisition of Pfizer’s Consumer Health Business, subject to conditions

Coronavirus: Commission launches call for innovative response and recovery partnerships between EU regions

Parliament names radio studio after journalists murdered in December attack

4 things to know about the state of conflict today

World-famous cultural institutions closed due to coronavirus are welcoming virtual visitors

As Houthi forces withdraw from key Yemeni ports, UN monitoring chief welcomes ‘first practical step on the ground’

Get out, stay out: how financial resilience helps end poverty

The ‘ASEAN way’: what it is, how it must change for the future

30 years of tissue engineering, what has been achieved?

Businesses are lacking moral leadership, according to employees

Mental health and suicide prevention

‘Perseverance is key’ to Iraq’s future, UN envoy tells Security Council

Belgium: Youth Forum takes legal step to ban unpaid internships

European Commission recommends common EU approach to the security of 5G networks

The Future of Balkans: Embracing Education

The European Parliament fails to really restrict the rating agencies

Gas pipeline in the European Union. (Copyright: EU, 2012 / Source: EC - Audiovisual Service / Photo: Ferenc Isza)

EU Investment Bank approves € 1.5bn loan for Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP)

Could Europe become the first climate-neutral continent?

Venezuela’s needs ‘significant and growing’ UN humanitarian chief warns Security Council, as ‘unparalleled’ exodus continues

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s