Business Culture In Depth, 29/01/2020

Female Leadership Breaks Stereotypes in Business

The 21st century is the epoch of changing a woman’s role in society. She strives much more independence and a career-oriented role rather than that of a housewife, she aspires to become financially independent, open her own business and succeed. Today, women are acting in their new role – female entrepreneurs.

Hesed Shmuel Jewish Charitable and Community Centre with the support of the “Joint” American Jewish Selection Committee and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany conducted a research work called “Formation of Women Entrepreneurs in Domestic Socio-Economic Realities” in 2018. According to the document, today, a new reality is shaping a modern female business person, that is a businesswoman who is focused not on outdated methods of work but on initiating compromise solutions, corporatism in the socio-cultural space. By analogy with men, there is the concept of “Self-made woman” – a woman who has succeeded in life through her strength.

How and when did women entrepreneurs emerge in Ukraine?

Market reforms, the development of democratic relations, the growth of women’s business activity have led to a redistribution of social roles in society. As a result of the radical economic changes in the 1990s, the challenge of developing women entrepreneurs as a special social group becomes quite relevant in the current circumstances.

Among women who managed to start their own business in the 1990s is notably Ludmila Bezpalko, general director of Borschahov Chemical and Pharmaceutical Plant, Yulia Tymoshenko, founder of Ukrainian Gasoline Corporation and Natalia Netovkina, creator of Zarina Jewelry House.

A large number of women entering into entrepreneurship have been called a “quiet” revolution. In circumstances of post-industrial society, special prerequisites were made for this – there was a transition from industrial to service economy, and a woman in this situation became especially desirable in society.

What natural and acquired abilities help women to adapt more readily to new circumstances?

According to Female Leadership and Business Surveys, conducted by “Union of Rural Women of Ukraine” NGO, psychologists and sociologists indicate a female inclination towards business. Women have such qualities that men are sometimes less inclined towards. Among those are creativity, a sense of beauty and dedication. Finally, it’s enthusiasm and ability to motivate others, patience, art to fascinate and persuade.

It is mentioned in “Formation of Women Entrepreneurs in Domestic Socio-Economic Realities” research work that “women are more sociable than men, they are inherently eager to communicate, unite and cooperate. Due to their natural abilities, women can adapt themselves to new market relationships much faster than men. This way, women try to retrain and as a result learn a new profession.”

Gender stereotypes concerning women in business.

In particular, it is traditionally considered the socio-professional role of a businessman is more appropriate for men, as they are regarded as resilient, non-emotional and stay focused. For some reason, the role of the female entrepreneur is misunderstood in society, because women are considered to be too soft for business, too sensitive, more sympathetic, unable to demand vigorously, etc. It is common to believe that women are too emotional and unable to think rationally to be leaders.

Is it possible to break gender stereotypes in people’s conscience?

According to Tetiana Chernetska, Executive Director of the Change Agency “Perspective” NGO, an associative series – leader – man – high status in society – crowds of followers – has been firmly entrenched in the ordinary consciousness for years and it’s is quite difficult to change this perception.

Anyway, the “leader” term has lost its “masculine” color and it can be found in combination with female names more and more often so far.

Research on “female” leadership has been actively conducted over the past 20 years. During this time, research topics have seriously evolved. In the initial stages of the study, the most frequently asked question was whether women are capable of leadership. Nowadays, no one is in doubt about the answer to this question, since women have proved their leadership ability.

How many women occupy top government posts worldwide? 

According to the UN Women investigation, 24.3 percent of all national parliamentarians were women as of February 2019, compared to 11.3 percent in 1995.

As of June 2019, 11 women are serving as Head of State in the following countries: Croatia, Nepal, Taiwan, Estonia, Singapore, Georgia, Slovakia and others. There are 12 heads of Government worldwide including Germany, Norway, Serbia, New Zealand, Iceland, etc.

Rwanda has the highest number of women parliamentarians worldwide, where, women have won 61.3 percent of seats in the lower house.

As of January 2019, 20.7 percent of government ministers were women; the most commonly held portfolios by women ministers are Social Affairs, Environment, Natural Resources, Energy, Employment, Labor and others.

The Ukrainian Parliament of the 9th convocation includes 87 female deputies which are about 21 percent of the total. This number has almost doubled compared to the 8th convocation where about 11,7 percent of deputies were female.

However, women find it far harder to be accepted and smash the so-called “glass ceiling” into corporate leadership.

How does “female” and “male” leadership styles differ?

In Mrs. Chernetska’s opinion, female and male leadership styles can’t be categorized by gender as the leadership style of a particular person is individual.

Modern society frequently has to face a situation where a man demonstrates a style that is commonly called “female” and vice versa. Therefore, it is more accurate to talk about “feminine” and “masculine” styles, since femininity and masculinity are not directly related to the individual’s biological gender but are socially constructed.

“Feminine” leadership style is often considered as social or personality-oriented. A leader demonstrating this style puts people at the forefront: their needs, self-realization, values, interests, and more. “Feminine” style is focused on cooperation, and not on competition, assertiveness, and not aggression. “Feminine” style leaders tend to build a network of interaction because they want to be at the center of the woven web, while masculine style followers prefer to build a hierarchy because they want to be on its top. Differences in the style of communication arise from the difference between the web network and the hierarchy: when the leader is in the center of the web, it is easier for him or her to communicate with followers, accordingly, it is easier to get any information, including feedback on various issues. Staying at the top of the hierarchy leads to a limitation of the circle of communication and information filtering.

Not only men demonstrate the “masculine” style of leadership. The bright examples of “masculine” style among women are ex-prime ministers of the UK and Ukraine, Margaret Thatcher and Yulia Timoshenko.

Comprehending the rules of men’s games, football, in particular, helped women to demonstrate progression in their career 30-40 years ago. Nowadays, such “feminine” leadership qualities as flexibility, teamwork, comprehensive development of employees are more valued.

Gone are the days when women took on a “man’s” approach in a job function, now it is time to introduce their rules of the game in various spheres of society.

Is there a gender gap among heads of organizations and enterprises in Ukraine?

According to “Women and Men in Leading Positions in Ukraine” statistical analysis of data conducted by the United State Register of Legal Entities, Individual Entrepreneurs and Public Organizations of Ukraine in 2017, the gender gap is significant among the heads of organizations and is almost absent among entrepreneurs.

The United State Register divides business entities into individual entrepreneurs and legal persons. An individual entrepreneur is a person exercising his or her right to the entrepreneurial activity under the condition of his or her state registration by the procedure established by law. The legal entity is an organization created and registered in the manner prescribed by law. Legal entities are commercial, governmental and public organizations.

The overall gender distribution among heads of organizations and entrepreneurs is 60 percent of men versus 40 percent of women. Private entrepreneurship in Ukraine is close to the gender balance as 46 percent of women are individual entrepreneurs, while only 30 percent of legal entity managers are women.

Which sectors are considered as “male” and “female?”

The only sector that is predominantly female-led is education where 69 percent of chief executives are women. Also, predominantly “female” among entrepreneurs is the “Other services” sector, 92 percent in class 96.02 “Providing services such as hairdressers and beauty salons” are women.

At the same time, there are mainly “men’s” sectors with more than 80 percent of male executives: transportation, building, agriculture.

Several sectors are gender-balanced where 44-55 percent of heads are women, particularly among hotels and restaurants (across all business entities), government, arts, sports, entertainment (among legal entities). Real estate, healthcare, as well as wholesale and retail are attractive for both female and male individual entrepreneurs.

Nowadays, there is no doubt that women can become successful leaders, breaking stereotypes formed for centuries that place them in the kitchen.

Modern women are steadily advancing in their goals showing by their examples that they can captain any vessel, whether small fishing boat of taking care of her own family or a huge ocean liner of running a country.

Text: Natalia Ivanova

Photo:, Tetiana Chernetska, Wikipedia

The material was prepared as a part of Gender Sensitive Space of Modern Journalism, implemented by the Volyn Press Club in partnership with the Volyn Gender Center, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Internews international organization.