Why call us “Women” leaders? and not just “Leaders?”

I loved reading the Linkedin article written by Carol Sankar, author of the Confidence Factor For Women series.

Why call us "Women" leaders? and not just "Leaders?" - women LeadersIn her article entitled The Confidence Factor for Women: Are you a leader or “woman” in leadership? Carol posed this question…

“If a woman is just as qualified as a man to lead at the same level, why are we still identified as “women” leaders? Why not “leaders?”

Here’s my response to this important question:

I believe there IS a great case for making this gender distinction. Although, I agree that largely the world sees being a ‘woman leader’ as different to being a qualified leader. I’ve learned that for many, the picture of a ‘qualified leader’ as you put it, is a white man with a suit – and of course, you are right in your argument that this is false – totally false! I’m persuaded, that more and more of us are being challenged in the false assumptions about what makes a true leader.

Although the gender distinction is currently not quite positive, I still suggest continuing to make it.

Why? Here’s the thing- we are DIFFERENT!

EQUALLY QUALIFIED yet DIFFERENT…and our difference is a CRUCIAL element in the grand scheme of marketplace things right now. I come to the conclusion that we, as women leaders, are not as connected or wholehearted about this truth as we could be and it’s costing us ALL very dear.

There are multi-dimensional, personal and professional costs to pay when women don’t #SHOW UP in the market place authentically and distinctly, as women… when we instead match and mimic the same styles as men and the masculine… For too many of us, when we “put on our work head” it’s tantamount to masking our WOMANLYness. We shut down the nurturer, the spiritual woman, inclusive collaborator, the mother heart, the sensitive, the sensual – indeed as an executive coach, I have seen the horror that many experience at the very thought of bringing these true feminine traits to the workplace – Yet, when I look at the world right now, I can’t ignore the loud cry of people that would benefit the most for this emergence, the very people the marketplace is built to serve.

Despite the incredible and astounding marketplace advancements and accomplishments under the current, very masculine paradigms – there is a VERY deep and LOUD cry from people who are direct casualties of the said systems and paradigms of the marketplace workings. We need Innovative Creative Solutions… yes from individuals… but also incredibly importantly we need the difference women collectively make. I call it the VOICE of the Woman – note I say voice of the woman and not voice of the leader – I’m talking about the woman who by design has a heart tuned into LOVE, COMPASSION, who’s mission is to oversee the day-to-day well-being of the family and community. I suggest that in marketplace terms, this equates to, not just people in the organisation, but the people the organisation and industry exists, after-all, TO SERVE.

There’s no denying that there is MASSIVE room for improvement this wise. Marketplace systems are systematically and consistently failing significant proportions of the PEOPLE it exists to serve.
Women are different to men for a reason – yes, both men and women are capable of both masculine and feminine traits – yes of course, both men and women are capable of expressing Love through leadership, BUT women- the way we are built to process, assess, see need and make decision for the greater good make us ideal champions of these largely missing qualities in the global marketplace – at the very highest levels where local, regional, national and international culture is continuously being shaped.

Finding and embracing our difference doesn’t mean women need to stop showing up as equal – that would be ludicrous – we are equal! but in my role as Executive Coach to Women in Senior Leadership positions all around the UK and Internationally, I see behind the masks, and I have witnessed on a daily basis how in our fight to’fit’ culturally and be seen as equal, credible and acceptable at work, we often disconnect from the very traits that qualify us in the greatest way for the unprecedented, escalating challenges of our 21st century world.

Our current masculine systems are genius at building the metaphorical house – but building a HOME needs something else… I believe the time has come (Just watch the news… just listen to the stories) for INNOVATING the feminine. Women have a distinct contribution to make and it is my experience that currently we are masking it. We have not grasped that WOMANKIND is an answer, one of the greatest assets in the grand scheme of marketplace leadership.

Based on my own journey and that of the women I serve, I suggest there is mass shame, fear, uncertainty and confusion about what it really means to BE A WOMAN – that’s how come being a WOMAN LEADER can be connected with being a derogatory term in the first place.

We have been making our difference in the home and local community since time began; Our presence in senior leadership is already empirically to be making a positive impact but now that we done with the “moving in” phase, and we have taken up our place in the global work space, it’s time for us to rethink and reconnect with our role to nurture, care take and establish greater levels of well-being through our roles in senior leadership.

I believe, with the strongest conviction, that what the world needs now is an uprising of Unmasked Unashamed Unapologetic Uninhibited authentic WOMEN to SHOW UP SPEAK UP and SHAKE Up the global marketplace! – there is a function for those things that make us distinctly feminine, the world is crying out for it and WE MUST embrace it!

I was born with a pronounced facial disfigurement, and when I was four years old, after much corrective surgery, I was fitted with an artificial eye and dark glasses…. why? To hide my facial flaws, blend in, and look a bit more “normal” That was what I call the beginning of my “Life Behind The Mask”.

Forty years later, through a sequence of seemingly random events, I found myself being challenged to my core to SHOW UP for real in leadership and life, without these masks; to quit hiding and to let people see and know the real me.I’ve been on an amazing journey of self-discovery and learning about what it takes for women to SHOW UP with what I call “Radical Authenticity”

I’m an Executive Coach and International Speaker and founder of Woman Leader Global, a coaching and consulting firm attracting a vibrant community of Senior Leaders – (mostly) Midlife Women, who, despite age and status are still powerfully motivated to continue evolving as authentic women, leaders and ChangeMakers.

I am driven by a profound sense of calling to support the mass unmasking of women in senior leadership around the world because I believe what our ailing world needs now, more than at any other time in history is the uprising and emergence of Radically Authentic Women in senior leadership who are ready and willing to Show Up, Speak Up and Shake Things The Hell Up in their organisations, industries and ultimately their world.

I am regularly called upon to speak to professional audiences about all things Women and Authentic Leadership and my TEDx “Talk Why Midlife Women Stay Stuck in Leadership” has received very positive reviews from thousands of viewers.

My superpower is ‘behind the mask’ supporting of women. Woman to woman support is what I was born for, it’s what I know best how to do. My style is up close and personal, un-superficial, challenging and candid. I think that comes from being an ex-midwife with a rich proven track record in developing specialist services for women and vulnerable families in the NHS before being recruited by Local Government in London to take a strategic lead to improve health outcomes for women and families across a London region.

I’m a lifelong learner with high-level certification as a Master Executive Coach, Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming, Positive Psychology and Biblical Theology; and in 2013 was awarded the prestigious Coach/Mentor of the year at the Women Inspiring Women Awards at the NEC Birmingham. I am a certified member of the International Institute of Coaches and Mentors.

Women I support whether they take part in my private coaching programs, talks, books or workshops experience powerful shifts – the aim of all my work is genuine, profound and sustainable healing of broken self-perceptions.

You can find out more about me and my work by joining my mailing list here.

or email me here: [email protected]




This article was written by Dion Johnson, Master Executive Coach, International Speaker and Women’s Leadership Development Expert.

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1 Response
  1. I agree completely with this comment. In developing and producing a feature film called From the Rough about Dr. Catana Starks, the first minority female to coach a men’s college athletic team (the Tennessee State men’s golf team), I was struck by the fact that her success was the result of approaches that were different from those a male coach would have used. She built a globally-diverse, but high performing, team because she thought of the coaching role almost like that of a mother. She was dealing with insecure young men who were far away from their countries and communities of origin and were “minorities” at a historically black college.

    Had she tried to coach the way a male would have, I doubt she would have succeeded. Great leaders need a mix of “male” and “female” perspectives and emotional tools to lead any group. Thank you for taking a strong stand on this issue.