As women climb the ladder of corporate power their minority status means they still face harsh, limiting assessments based on their gender. “Women are being judged more, even by other women,” said Valerie Young, Ed.D., author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women in an article in Forbes. “While male leaders are allowed to have complex personalities, powerful women are often summed up by hackneyed stereotypes that undermine them and their power.”
When asked “what is your least favourite stereotype about powerful women?” those questioned – including IMF Chief Christine Lagarde – picked the following:
- Ice Queen
- Single and Lonely
- A Token
- A Cheerleader
What these suggest is that if a woman shows emotion she is considered weak or emotional, and if she doesn’t she gets the title of Ice Queen. In my experience of working with powerful women I have found the reality to be that these women are hired for their experience and what they bring to the role. However, they may still be dismissed as being an attempt to achieve diversity goals as “the token woman”. Where a man is a “bachelor about town” if he is single a woman is considered to be either “lonely” or only single because she is too “masculine” or “tough” to attract a partner. For example, when I tell people I have no children of my own – I often subconsciously wonder if they are negatively pigeonholing me as being masculine or disliking children – whereas my male colleagues rarely face those judgements from women or men! You have to look no further than how the media dismissively portrays childless professional women as selfish harridans to understand why the stereotype persists!