Leadership, Women, and Stereotypes

I always considered myself to be a leader (albeit a very, very quiet one), but never gave much thought to what that really means. Yes, I started businesses and was vice president of school clubs, but I’ve always wanted to delve deeper into creating and heading collaborations. As I stared at the many positions on my college applications, I wondered: Does leading mean becoming the president of every club on campus? Creating your own projects and activities? Guiding your friends to make good decisions? Or is it something deeper, a mysterious quality that some people have and others don’t?

When I found out that Arcadia had an intensive leadership-development program, I had to take part. Finally, a chance to gain real insight into leadership. I signed up for the AU Lead program, which lasts two to three semesters and involves attending workshops about various leadership-related topics, creating a project that positively impacts the school or community, and writing a reflection paper. This semester alone, I’ve participated in workshops about what a leader is, how to plan an on-campus event, and, currently, an exploratory workshop about women’s leadership styles.

I was eager to take the “Women and Leadership” session because women’s studies and the fight for equality are of particular interest to me. In fact, I’m taking two women’s studies classes this semester. Best of all, the session is led by Danielle Maxson, the peer mentor for my “Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History” first-year seminar.

Danielle Maxson, AULead

Danielle Maxson lead the session and got us thinking about women n the workplace.

On class day, I entered the small conference room and sank into a huge, comfortable chair. AU Lead sessions are typically held in rooms like these, with tables arranged in a circle so participants can easily interact with each other and the session leader. After introductions, Maxson kicked off the session by asking us about our expectations for the workshop. Everyone had a different answer, from learning about the differences between male and female leadership styles to how women can earn more power in the workplace.

We broke into small groups to discuss stigmas associated with women in the workplace. AU Lead sessions are especially enriching because they’re very hands-on and require heavy audience participation. My group of three discussed how women are put into boxes and labeled as bossy, crazy, and too emotional. Afterward, we brainstormed how to turn these stereotypes into strengths.

The class spent the rest of the session talking about topics like the male/female confidence gap, pay inequality, and defying gender roles. I left feeling confident to make my place as a strong woman in whatever workplace I end up in because I had the tools to defy stigmas (such as being considered too “emotional,” as I’ve been told several times before). My biggest takeaway from the session was to create practical methods to deal with serious issues, such as turning emotion into compassion to improve a workplace environment or serve clientele. Simply learning is fine for class, but the best way to master something is to do. This session allowed me to do just that.

Featured photo by Jessica Mallepalle ’16