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Women need to change the rules of the game

This article is also available in: bsBosnian (Bosnian)

By: Andreja Pavlović, partner, Hauska&Partner

When Ekrem asked me to write a column on female leadership, I first accepted it without thinking, and then I broke a sweat. It’s seemingly a topic like any other that has already been written about so much, from metaphors like the glass ceiling, and recently “the labyrinth”, to an almost abysmal share of women in high leadership positions. Company boards in the EU are dominated by men – average age 58.4 years, with similar professional backgrounds, which makes them prone to leaning on each other when making decisions, without respecting other and different perspectives…

All of the above seemed to me as the well-known, general issues which mostly end up with the same appeal about the need for higher share of women in leadership positions. I wanted to ask a different question, but I was not sure how to frame it. Since I’ve been writing this column in my thoughts for quite some time now, all the time polishing it in different places, help came from the distinguished professor Koprić. He asked why women don’t criticize the world based on the concept of management concept that is consistent with the male worldview, with the purposes of the community, the definition of success and ways of determining success, which proved to be at the very heart of what I wanted to highlight in this column.

Namely, it is paradoxical that women, in fact, do not criticize this kind of management, but rather they criticize the fact that they do not participate sufficiently in it. There’s a reason why there are no women in leadership positions, and its causes should be sought in the fact that growth has been placed at the center of progress, as (almost) the only criterion that measures success, but not quality of life. However, countries like Denmark, which has the best quality of life in the world, have almost the same share of women and men in leadership positions (somewhat less in companies but still they have the most women in administrations when EU is concerned).

It’s extremely simplified, or perhaps not, but something like this is possible in a country that nurtures community, being (not possession), and is thus a society focused on people, not on things… It’s a country in which the industrial revolution developed a specific social ethos that takes care of the welfare of citizens, not external splendor. On the other hand, countries (dominantly) focused on growth need men in leadership positions because they can provide it with their specific characteristics: competitiveness, focus on results, assertiveness, ambition, aggressiveness, strength … men whose heroic stance can provide everything necessary to achieve the desired results.

Therefore, instead of agreeing to participate in a game on whose rules they had no impact, women should focus on shaping new rules, redefining a society in which growth is shown as the only measure of success. Only new rules and a redesign will not only allow their specificities to be recognized as equivalent, but also to be properly valued. At the beginning of the 20th century, Marry Parker Follet, nowadays rehabilitated as one of the key management theorists, was critically outspoken about the assumption that leaders must be ‘autocratic’, ‘aggressive’, ‘masterful’, ‘dominating’, ‘convincing’ and ‘imposing’, because they have to ‘fight’, ‘define rules’ and ‘order’. “No”, says Follet: “Leadership is not defined by the exercise of power but by the capacity to increase the sense of power among those led. The most essential work of the leader is to create more leaders.”

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