Women are well prepared to assume leadership roles—They have the education and the will, yet, they do not conform to gendered organizational images of ideal workers. Women often find themselves in a double bind once they advance into a leadership role: They must be cautious not to appear too masculine or too feminine while also personifying the “ideal” (male) worker by exhibiting masculine behaviors and unwavering commitment to the organization. Holding this line is challenging and often at odds with women’s identity and experienced conflicts between life and work. Our understanding of how best to prepare women for careers and create organizations that are hospitable to them is limited by implicit bias, inadequate learning and development strategies, and cultures resilient to change. Current human resource development (HRD) theory inadequately addresses the issues and challenges women leaders face because most leadership theory is based on privileged White males and highly essentialized.
The world is burgeoning with global business, technological innovation, intense competition, and multinational workforces. HRD has a role to play in building effective global business if it can more robustly and broadly address issues related to diversity and inclusion in organizations, particularly the creation of cultures that accept a range of leadership styles and women leaders. It is time to challenge traditional, masculine views of leadership and question how leaders are developed. It is critical to understand women’s leadership if women leaders are to be developed and if persistent gender inequity in organizations is to be addressed.
Women are obvious stakeholders, but, ultimately, everyone in organizations is a stakeholder benefiting from women leaders and improved leadership, in general. HRD professionals also benefit by understanding better how to develop women leaders, in particular, and leadership, in general. Globally, elected leaders, nongovernmental organizations, and nations can develop policy that has the potential to influence and create educational, occupational, and economic change for women.