Over our most recent decade, women in the U.S. have made great strides in taking on new leadership roles. We’ve had our first female presidential candidate and our first female Speaker of the House. In 2011, 13 Fortune 500 companies were run by women and – get this! – those companies outperformed the overall stock market by 28 percent, according to an analysis by Forbes magazine.
But, alas, a new meta-analysis shows that our society still views leadership as a male trait.
The study, out of Northwestern University, found that women are hampered with two forms of prejudice when it comes to taking on leadership roles: They are viewed as less qualified in general. And when they assume traits we associate with leadership, such as assertiveness or decisiveness, their behavior is viewed as inappropriate. (One Huffington Post columnist uses a less appropriate but more colorful word.)
But there is a silver lining. The analysis found that masculine views of leadership are less extreme today compared to when researchers began studying the culture of leadership traits in the early 1970s.
So what’s a woman to do? Personally, I agree with Huffington Post columnist Laura Hibbard. The best thing we can do is to take on more leadership roles more often. The culture shift has already begun. Now we just need to make sure it continues.