Women in Leadership – Dr. Stephanie Gilbert

In response to a persistent lack of gender diversity among Canadian leaders according to Statistics Canada, Canada’s Minister for the Status of Women has urged Canadian organizations to increase representation of women on boards to 30 per cent by 2019. This announcement ties directly into the research of Dr. Stephanie Gilbert, Professor of Management in CBU’s Shannon School of Business.

Dr. Gilbert has been awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant valued at $60,223 for her research, Women in Leadership: The Influence of Stereotype Threat and Motivation for Transformational Leadership on Leadership Aspirations and Emergence.

“One important social outcome of this work will be a greater understanding of how we can promote women’s leadership aspirations while at the same time encouraging positive leadership behaviours overall,” says Dr. Gilbert. “Receiving this grant will give me the resources and opportunity to conduct a thorough investigation of women’s motivation to attain leadership roles.”

Through a series of surveys, Dr. Gilbert will examine the specific challenges that women face which may temper their motivation to attain leadership roles in organizations. One of these challenges is stereotype threat, the risk of being judged by or treated according to, negative gender stereotypes.

In a previous study examining leader motivation, Dr. Gilbert discovered that among participating managers, 4 per cent of males reported a complete lack of motivation to be effective in their roles, while the female leaders reported being largely self-motivated.

“I found this information to be extremely interesting,” says Dr. Gilbert. “Did those 4 per cent of men just ‘fail up’ into their roles? And in comparison, did the women need to be twice as self-motivated than men in order to overcome the obstacles in their path toward leadership?” It was this curiosity that led Dr. Gilbert to her present research.

The evidence, says Dr. Gilbert, suggests that women are just as effective in leadership roles as men but that their presence as leaders on boards of directors may lead to more effective decision-making that is equally beneficial for both women and men at all levels of the organization. So it is crucial that we understand what prevents women from attaining these roles in larger numbers.

Currently, women hold only about 10 per cent of seats on Canadian boards of directors, which means that organizational decisions are being made primarily by men, from a male perspective. In order to provide high-quality work-life experiences for both men and women, there must be equal representation in leadership roles.

Congratulations, Dr. Gilbert!

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