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ECDC Consortium Leadership At-A-Glance

Project for Strengthening Organizations Serving Refugees

Leadership and Women

The concept of leadership is as dynamic as leaders themselves. Women, whose leadership style is infused with unique characteristics, are not only effective leaders in private life but are increasingly taking on decisionmaking roles in the public life of organizations and communities. However, in recognizing the leadership style of women, it is also important to realize the barriers they face. Through this understanding and recognition, we will be better positioned to support and tap into their contributions, thus strengthening the various threads families, communities, and organizationsof society. Women make up over 50% of the population and as such, society, and most importantly, our communities cannot advance without the contributions, insights and unique strengths of women. Their leadership style carries with it real potential for transforming our organizations and communities. In order for communities to strengthen and grow, men and women must be able to work together, combining their insights and capabilities to their communities benefit.

Characteristics of Womens Leadership

Womens leadership style arises primarily out of a concern for community and culture. Traditionally, women in leadership roles are often more comfortable being team players than being seen as the head of the pack. Women are generally more likely to foster collaborations, which Leadership is taking the initiative to can be highly beneficial for communities. make a positive change for yourself, your family, for your community, and Women are also more likely to be transformational leaders, for the greater common good. i.e., serving as role models, mentors and teachers rather than Leadership impacts and changes relying on more traditional boss/subordinate-oriented peoples lives or at least helps them see management. This type of leadership assumes that people in things in a new perspective. Leadership an organization have a common goal and decisions are made means taking a stand and defending through consensus rather than being handed down in a your ideology and beliefs. top-down manner. They are more focused on the development Bao Vang, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and nurturing of their staff. According to Bernard Bass, Director of the Center for Leadership Studies in the School of Management at the State University of New York at Binghamton, transformational leaders encourage their staff to look beyond self-interest to the good of the organization and/or community. Refugee women promote the understanding amongst their peers that they must share stakes in the community. Sarya Sok, Cambodian Cultural Alliance of Washington It cannot be argued that all women possess, nor that men do not possess, these qualities. However, womens unique leadership style arises out of different experiences, socialization and cultures. In nonprofit and community organizations, these traits bring a different approach to leadership that emphasize resourcefulness and resource building through inclusion, information sharing and the promotion of other peoples strengths, taking on multifaceted roles, and keeping the long-term vision in view while engaging in day-to-day tasks.

Did you know that....across the world, women work on average more hours than men per week, but receive less pay....over the past 3 years more than 50% of refugees resettled in the U.S. have been women....womens participation in managerial and administrative posts is around 33% in the West, 15% in Africa, and 13% in Asia and the Pacific.

Barriers to Leadership
Despite the real potential for organizational learning and constructive change a woman's model of leadership could foster in our communities, there are still several barriers that deter women from seeking leadership roles, or exclude them altogether. This is especially true for refugee and immigrant women, in whose cultures and communities men have assumed the dominant roles. Some cultural and religious beliefs relegate women to taking care of the home and children, even if they are Refugee women often come from a harsh path formally employed, stifle them and give them little and have experienced the worst that this planet opportunity to develop their skills. Even in so-called has to offer. The fear of going back to the past advanced societies, women are held to higher standards motivates them to work hard to change their than men, thus it is more difficult for women to obtain childrens future. They are eager to educate and leadership positions and maintain them. alter themselves. They also have the role of motherhood which they use as a tool to improve A lack of education presents another barrier to womens their communitys future. leadership. In much of the developing world formal Konjit Moges, ECDC African Community Center education is not a priority for women, given their expected roles as family caregivers. Conversely, men are considered the provider of the family and for them, formal education was highly emphasized. According to the United Nations Statistics Division, women still lag behind men in primary and secondary education in parts of African and southern Asia. The lack of women in leadership positions is itself a barrier to fostering the development of women as leaders. It takes more than one woman to effect change. A woman entering male-dominated work or community groups has no support and no opportunity to practice her unique leadership style. She may be seen as ineffective if she does not conform to the prevailing norms. The phrase man enough for the job captures perfectly the pressures women face.

How can womens leadership be further tapped into?

Beyond anything else it is imperative that women, particularly refugee and immigrant women, have the opportunity to see each other in positions of leadership. Women with similar backgrounds and life experiences can provide guidance and mentoring, or simply a sense of identity for each other.

As a community
Develop womens networks/associations within the community to provide support and peer-learning opportunities. Recognize how beliefs and values support or undermine leadership roles of women within the community. Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision making. Promote the many positive roles played by women. Develop programs and policies that change attitudes and behaviors related to gender roles. Establish programs for empowering young women. Understand and appreciate differences in leadership styles and utilize those styles to promote the mission of the organization. Provide personal support and encouragement as a family member or friend to women as they take on leadership roles. Be a role model or mentor.

As an organization

As an individual

Additional Sources:
Profiles in Womens Leadership, The Centre for Development and Population Activities. Available at: Rethinking Leadership: Leadership as Friendship. Available at:

Ethiopian Community Development Council, Inc. 901 S. Highland Street Arlington, Virginia 22204 Tel: (703) 685-0510 Website:

Southeast Asia Action Resource Center 1628 16th Street, NW, 3rd Floor Washington, DC 20009 Tel: (202) 667-6449 Website:
October 2005