Is there such a thing as "Female Leadership

March 17, 2014 11:41 AM | Karol Lahrman (Administrator)
In January the business world took notice of General Motor’s new CEO. Instead of hiring a resume with previous CEO’s experience, GM appointed lifer Mary Barra. Unique to most CEO stories, Barra started at GM as an intern and built her way up. But what fascinated me the most was three words in the Business Insider’s article about her. In describing Barra’s resume, writers Paul Lienert and Ben Klayman explained her mentors to be “virtually all men.”

This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. In a male dominated field, Barra was probably one of the few women in leadership. Despite the strong emphasis on the masculine influences in her career, those watching are struck by her leadership style. Critics describe her management style as collaborative and compassionate. Instead of dominating conversation, she listens before she makes decisions. Admirers call her kind. They find her leadership feminine.

But, is leadership masculine or feminine? Society seems to see parts of human character to be ultimately feminine or masculine. Meekness is innately female while men are expected to be bold. Young women should choose their family’s welfare over their own while men are praised in their success despite their absence. And let’s be honest. If you’re a male with too many “feminine” qualities, you’re labeled soft and sensitive. If you’re a female with too many “masculine” qualities, you’re rude and unapproachable. As a woman who wants to remain compassionate and gentle in the legal profession, such stereotypes leave me frustrated. How can I be transparent in a field that challenges my character with gender expectation?

What I do know is that clients are comforted by authenticity. In a profession viewed as manipulative and cunning, people are attracted to a place that makes them safe. Barra’s leadership style clearly creates such an environment. Whether its labeled feminine or not, it has a place in the law.

As a law student who is just now struggling with that conviction, I do not know the answer. However, I know I want to be apart of the conversation with older female lawyers who have been there. And that’s how the legal profession will adapt. If we as women believe investing in the younger generationundefinedwhether it be our children, their high school friends, or younger female co-workersundefinedto give them that incite, a new generation will learn leadership in a radical way.

By Amber Lovelady

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