Researchers discuss women in leadership


Women are powerful agents of change, and the far-reaching benefits of diversity and gender parity in leadership and decision-making are increasingly recognized in all spheres. Still, women continue to be vastly under-represented in decision-making in politics, businesses, and communities.

It is to this end that women researchers have set out to investigate what is hindering leadership of women and how best to address these challenges. 

Prof. Doyin Coker-Kola, a researcher from Indiana University Southeast, who is also a visiting fellow at Makerere University, set out to explain the barriers to and attempt to change women’s mindset. In her discussion titled “What is wrong with being confident? Changing women’s mindset about leadership” Prof. Doyin notes that about 68% of the teaching force is female yet only about 35% are in leadership.  

Prof. Doyin notes that confidence is an important factor of leadership because it helps in developing one’s image and getting them noticed and develop one’s potential. She identified some barriers to leadership which included cultural and institutional barriers. Some cultural barriers include socialization or perception of traditional gender roles. Men are traditionally perceived as leaders while the women are perceived to be followers. This has hindered many women in pursuing leadership roles. She said women are constrained by the double-blind phenomenon. This, she explained, allows for a different set of rules for women and men in leadership. “Women are judged as either too soft or too hard while competent women are not rewarded as well as men.” 

Patriarchal structures continue to constrain women because society has given the leadership role to men and not women. Prof. Doyin noted that many women internalize cultural perceptions that see them as weak and they grow to believe that they are weak.

Women are also hindered by institutional barriers which include limited resources to reward women, lack of role models, unconscious biases within the organization and well as limited leadership opportunities. Women are also affected by personal barriers which include, not feeling good about self, failing to balance life and work, staying within our comfort zones and not taking on a challenge. All or nothing thinking affects leadership of women. Many want to be perfect before they embark on leadership. 

Prof. Doyin also shared some strategies to overcome the barriers, which include having a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. She argued that people with a growth mindset see their abilities as flexible entities that can be developed through dedication while people with a fixed mindsets believe that their strength are predetermined. “Individuals with a growth mindset tend to outperform those with a fixed mindset and are also far less likely to get frustrated when things become challenging,” Prof. Doyin emphasized. She concluded with a motivating statement by Jessie J who said “Not feeling good enough is the biggest barrier to us following our dreams, making changes in our lives and contributing our ideas to the world. Get and handle on your inner bully and start building self-confidence.”

During his opening remarks Dr. Godfrey Mayende, who represented the Principal of CEES, encouraged women to join leadership positions, saying they are more committed and les corruptible. He too noted the cultural barriers but encouraged women to overcome these barriers. 

Another researcher, Prof. Faye Camahalan, the Dean, School of Education at Indiana University Southeast, shared some critical skills and competences women need to become effective leaders. Some of these skills include; effective communication, strategic thinking, creativity and innovation, emotional intelligence, critical thinking and problem solving as well as confidence. Other researchers such as Dr. Euzobia Mugisha Baine, the Director of Gender Mainstreaming at Makerere University, discussed Changing Mindsets: Gender diversity in school leadership, while Ms Immy Lwanga shared her leadership journey from teacher to Head Teacher. 

Written by Betty Kyakuwa 

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