Waiting for a Crisis to Put Women in Leadership?

Are you kidding me? Nope. 

Forbes just published an article that really shines a light on the fact that it has been only AFTER a crisis that women have been brought in to lead. Most recently, the NFL has hired three women to help create the policies and procedures around the issue of domestic violence.

Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to the league’s teams announcing that he hired three women to “help lead and shape the NFL’s policies and programs relating to domestic violence and sexual assault.” Lisa Friel, Jane Randel and Rita Smith previously worked in the field of domestic violence prevention and education. A day later, the NFL said former White House official Cynthia Hogan would take over as SVP of public policy and government affairs.

As I read the article, I was pleased to see that the NFL had brought in women to lead this cause, but it wasn’t until I read the rest of the article that I saw a pattern forming:

  • Men are the original leaders
  • Men mess up
  • Women are brought in to clean up the mess

Of course that is an over generalization but the fact remains that women are not selected as the original leaders because of a stereotype belief that women are not willing to take enough risks to lead organizations. 

Yet, the facts continue to support the reality that companies with women in leadership positions outperform those organizations led by the more traditional “good ol’ boy” network. 

The Forbes article author, Caroline Fairchild, concludes her article with this insight:

If these women were in positions of leadership to begin with, the crises that spurred their hiring may not have even happened in the first place. The stereotype that women don’t take risks is just that, a stereotype. Yet studies prove that organizations with women in power outperform their peer organizations with exclusively male leadership. My hunch is that if Goodell had brought in advisors to consult on domestic violence and sexual assault, the Ray Rice controversy would have been resolved months ago. 

Jenna Goudreau, staff writer for Forbes focuses her writing on women in leadership and not long ago she interviewed several high profile women leaders to uncover someone of the stereotypes women are faced with in the business world.

I recommend you read the article, The 10 Worst Stereotype of Women Leaders but here is the list:

  • Ice Queen
  • Single and Lonely
  • Tough
  • Weak
  • Masculine
  • Conniving
  • Emotional
  • Angry
  • A Token
  • A Cheerleader

When seen as a list, the contradictions are almost comical. What does this list mean or say to you? The truth is, there are stereotypes about both genders as well as professionals from diverse backgrounds. Making assumptions without any basis in fact is wrong all the way around.

Perhaps there is good news in the fact that organizations bring women in to correct a crisis situation. In those cases where women have been brought in to redirect the situation; the company has experienced success. Hopefully, over time, business leaders (i.e. men) will realize the fact that stereotypes are just that – generalizations not based in fact, and bring women into leadership roles without waiting for a crisis.

“No matter what companies assume about women, you will often see women lead with courage in crisis,” says Kate Bensen, the president and CEO of the women leadership group The Chicago Network. “Even if they think they are getting someone “safe” they might get someone who takes risks that are good for everybody.”