Women leaders are on the rise. Books are being written about women in leadership, media outlets are weighing in by hosting forums and producing special reports, and affinity groups in the workplace are engaging and leaning in. So, aside from repercussions of #MeToo, why is there so much discussion about women coming into their own and coming into positions of leadership?
In Texas among Fortune 1000 companies, women hold only 14% of executive leadership positions. Why is that? Are women not good at leading? Are there inherent factors affecting women from achieving promotion to higher levels of leadership? Before you weigh in, the following examines five myths about women in leadership. Take a read to decide for yourself.
Myth #1: Leaders are born (male).
Yes, statistically, there are more male leaders represented in most organizations. However, this does not preclude women from taking on leadership roles. While there are certain leadership traits that can be naturally represented from one’s genetics, leadership qualities are also developed. Therefore, if leadership qualities can be developed, there is hope for women and all aspiring leaders.
Myth #2: Leadership is new for women.
Have you ever heard of the names Nzinga Mbande, Cleopatra VII or even Dilma Rousseff, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi or certainly Oprah Winfrey, Condoleezza Rice, and Hilary Clinton? Women have been leading across all sectors of business and government since the beginning of recorded history and earlier. When women have other women leadership role models within the organization, they can better envision their own career paths and success. Therefore, the conclusion of this myth is that women have been leading for centuries — even millennia.
Myth #3: Women can have it all.
Can women have it all? It depends on what you define as “all” and what you are willing to trade to have it all. Some women define all as the balance of a successful career and a successful family or home life. For women who work outside the home, whether you are married, single or a parent, the dynamics of the workplace and leading in the workplace will have an impact on your personal life just as it would for your male counterparts. Therefore, the real question is: What level of engagement in your work is appropriate and desirable for you at this stage of your life and career?
Myth #4: Women must work harder at learning to lead.
Research shows that women naturally possess effective leadership competencies. So, if this is the case, why do we not have more women in leadership? The answer is not only in possessing these competencies but in bringing them to bear in the workplace and in leadership situations. Women have a tendency to undersell or under-represent their qualities and competencies compared to men. The lesson for women in leadership positions is to walk in their truth. Represent your skills and competencies accurately and never sell them out to the lowest bidder. The diversity of experiences, perspective and values that women bring to executive decision-making yields competitive advantage and creative team dynamics. So, for women, learning to lead can be easy if you do what comes naturally.
Myth #5: Women will never be paid as much as men.
This myth is hard to disprove. Current data indicates women are paid some 84 cents for every dollar earned by their male colleagues. While it may take more than a generation before resolving pay equity between men and women, this does not have to be true in your case. Prior to your next role or offer letter, research the position; know the market value for that position and review your resume to remind yourself of your accomplishments. Then, during the negotiations, wait for the offer to come first rather than telling your new employer what salary you are looking to receive. This gives you leverage and information for a better negotiation. Finally, respectfully stand firm and hold your ground. You may not get what you want. But then again, you just might — and you will have gained the confidence to know your value.
Read more on Forbes.com.