One of the main conclusions of the article is that one of the biggest barriers that preventswomen from rising to leadership positions in Asia and the U.S. relates to women`s caregiver roles and responsibilities. Despite the fact that this barrier is shared in the U.S. and Asian countries, the attitudes of women and the strategies they employ to overcome this barrier significantly differ from one country to another. For instance, in the U.S. women managers pursue their careers and have children at the same time even though this requires them to make career sacrifices. On the other hand, in China, women managers face conflicts in their managerial and caregiver roles, with many opting for their careers at the expense of family. In India and Singapore, the family compliments a woman`s managerial roles. However, in Singapore, feel guilty that they spend less time with their children and family (Peus et al., 2015, p. 62).
There are several reasons why studying gender issues in cross-cultural leadership may lead to different results, compared to cross-cultural leadership studies disregarding gender issues. According to Denmark (1993, p. 345), when gender issues are disregarded in the study of cross-cultural leadership, it creates numerous gaps in a study`s theoretical and research design. For example, ignoringcaregiver roles and responsibilities gives different results because it will fail to capture how it affects women`s managerial roles across cultures. Secondly, a cross-cultural leadership study that disregards gender issues fails to take into consideration how organizational factors may have different effects on the skills of women and men occupying the same leadership position. For instance, where interpersonal skills lead to advancement in executive positions, but the procedures for selection favor men, fewer women will advance even though they have the skill. The results may be misinterpreted to mean that men in executive positions have stronger interpersonal skills than women (Yukl, 2010, p. 466).
The leadership style that could also have been appropriate to study female leadership is the People-Oriented Leadership (Consideration-Oriented Leadership). Under this leadership style, a leader is directly involved with the workers throughout the process. The leader participates in every aspect of work and provides support, advice and ideas to the subordinates. This leadership style significantly boosts teamwork, permits collaboration, and stimulates ideas from team members (Grant, 2008, p. 45). This leadership style is evident in the case as indicated in the findings. In terms of learning orientation, women executives emphasized the importance of learning from others (talking to people) and observing peers. Similarly, women executives in all the countries studied had role models in professional and private life. For example, in the U.S. most women executives had professional role models from their respective careers. They learn from their role models by directly interacting with them or receiving advice. The same applies to Singapore, India and China. However, in India and China, role models are primarily drawn from private realm. Most importantly, the majority of managers in Asia and the U.S. are interested in mentoring their subordinates to prepare them for leadership positions, which indicates their consideration-oriented approach (Peus et al., 2015, p. 64).
The differences in women`s leadership styles are more significant between Asian countries compared to women’s leadership style differences between Asia and the United States. This is caused by various factors as discussed below. Firstly, there are significant cross cultural differencesbetween the different Asia countries(Singapore, China and India). These cultural differences influence leadership styles. For instance, women managers in Singapore and India place more emphasis on relational-oriented leadership compared to women managers in China. Women managers in China are more task-oriented (teaching their subordinates on how to accomplish particular tasks), which makes the women leadership style in China more identical to that of the U.S. compared to India and China.
Secondly, the individual Asian countries place emphasis on particular leadership dimensions. For example, whereas in China more focus is placed on the need to develop the workers as a way of enabling them to achieve the set organizational goals, in India more emphasis is placed on developing the employees to help them assume leadership positions. On the other hand, in Singapore emphasis is placed on supporting the workers in their private lives. Because of the differing leadership dimensions between the Asian countries, some Asian countries such as Singapore exhibit closer similarities to the U.S. in terms of how leadership is enacted compared to their Asian neighbors.
China has a different culture compared to that of the United States. Individualism and collectivism indicate the degree to which members of a particular society are interdependent on each other. In an individualist society, a person`s self-image is defined in terms of ‘I’ while in a collectivist society, a person`s elf-image is defined in terms of ‘We’. According to Geert-hofstede (2015, p. 1), in terms of the individualism dimension the U.S. scores 91 while China scores 20. This indicates that in China, members of the society are closely interdependent on one another (collectivist society). On the other hand, in the U.S., people are more concerned with their individual wellbeing (indivudualist society). In an individualist society such as the U.S., people are concerned about their wellfare and those of their close family members. On the other hand, in a collevist society such as China a person belongs to a group and each group member takes care of the interest of the group, and the group offers loyalty in exchange. The individual success factors in China are explained in terms of ‘collectivism’ because in-group factors affect have a direct influence on women managers` success in China. Individual success factors that include learning orientation and achievement are considered important to individual success in China to the extent that they permit women managers in the country to create positive relations with in-group members; these members include family members and professionals in their respective industries. In-group relationships and collaboration within the group is much stronger.
On the other hand, the individual success factors for women managers in the U.S. are explained in terms of ‘individualism’. This is because the ambition to succeed as a woman manager in the U.S. is primarily driven by the desire for personal gains. This means that in the U.S., the individual success factors such as learning orientation is done at the individual level rather than as a group. This is evidenced in the case when the U.S. manager responds that “I am intensely curious and I find whenever I’m trying to do something new, I’m reading books about it. So, I think I gather information.” (Peus, Braun and Knipfer, 2015, p. 61). Similarly, in terms of achievement orientation, women managers in the U.S. are willing to work even harder to achieve superior performance because they know that it is in their self-interest to achieve their interests and goals.
Glass ceiling can be defined as a barrier that is transparent yet so strong that it stops women from moving up the corporate ladder. Because the ceiling is transparent, women are able to see the top corporate positions, but are unable to reach the top. The barrier is not based on the women`s personal inability to perform the high-level job, but rather stops women from rising up the corporate ladder simply because they are women. Compared to the U.S., Asia more glass ceilings. Women occupy 5% of corporate board seats in India, 7% in Singapore, and 8% in China, and indication that in the Asian continent women are least represented in leadership positions (McKinsey & Company, 2012, p. 3). Different countries have different glass ceilings as discussed below.
In China, traditional gender roles are the greatest glass ceiling mentioned in the article. The problem is particularly serious is rural areas of China. Despite the challenges, the Chinese government has made conscious efforts to promote gender equality across the country, and as a result, the Chinese society has become more liberal toward women performing both family and economic roles.
In India, culture is the greatest glass ceiling directly sited in the case. Even though many women have received professional training and perform different professional roles across India, the society places heavy emphasis on women`s family roles. In the Indian culture, a woman`s family roles is considered primary to her very existence (Bhatnagar and Rajadhyaksha, 2001, p. 561). Because of this cultural barrier, many women in India who are rising up the corporate ladder are faced with a dilemma. On one hand, the society expects them to be committed to their professional duties just like their male counterparts. On the other hand, the same society expects women professionals in India to accord utmost priorities to their families (Malhotra and Sachdeva, 2005, p. 41).
In Singapore, the most serious glass ceiling cited in the article relates to the dynamic nature of the Singapore economy. Despite the fact that traditional gender stereotypes are also evident in Singapore, they have not stopped women professionals in the country from taking top leadership positions compared to other Asian countries. However, the dynamic nature of the country`s economy continues to be a major impediment to women`s career progression (Theinet al., 2010, p.305). Over the recent past, working has becoming more important in Singapore compared to family. This poses serious burden to women in leadership positions because they face difficulties in balancing their family roles and work duties.
According to the article, women leaders` success factors are broadly categorized into four levels: individual (The individual success factors identified include achievement orientation and career aspirations); interpersonal (relationship with supervisors and peers); organizational (employee selection and promotion); and social systems (gender stereotyping) (Ragins&Sundstrom, 1989, p. 74). Whereas the article has treated these four levels differently, they are in fact interlinked and they overlap. Specifically, the organizational and social systems (broader aggregations) significantly influence individual and interpersonal levels (smaller aggregations). For instance, gender-role socialization, which falls under the social systems level can directly influence a person`s interpersonal through attributions and perceptions related to work-roles. For example, when a woman`s sex role expectations at home reduce conflict and contribute toward reducing role overload, it positively influences the woman`s individual level of analysis, by for instance, allowing the woman leader to balance her professional and personal life. Similarly, at the level of the organization, a formal tracking process can be a success factor to a woman leader by widening her expertise in different areas, thereby, expanding her access to more desirable work settings. As a result, the four levels of analysis as provided in the model are interlinked. Because of this, the success factors identified in the case cannot be exclusively exclusively explained by one level of analysis because they are influenced by the other levels as well. For example, learning orientation may be significantly impacted by the availability of educational opportunities in the organization and the level of support provided by peers and supervisors in the organization. As such the success factors are a combination of all the four levels of analysis, and not a single level. Therefore, this means that the conclusion of the article may have been different because the success factors were analyzed using a single level.
The title of the article”On becoming a leader in Asia and America: Empirical evidence from women managers” is inappropriate because it does not accurately reflect the subject matter of research study. A better title would have been “Women in leadership: a cross-cultural comparison between the United States and three Asian countries- China, Singapore, and India.” The title is appropriate because it highlights the broad areas that the study focuses on.
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