The Power of Talk

Emily Wielk ’20

Communication is possibly one of the most complex aspects of human society. At some point in time, groups of humans decided that a collections of sounds could be recorded and signified by letters, and then those sounds could work together to form words. From here, a language was born and has been evolving ever since, but not without its difficulties.

Communication isn’t as simple as saying what you mean (67).

How often have you been in a conversation with a coworker, friend, or family member where you both nodded and left but neither of you actually knew what was said? At work, this could be the difference in completing a task or going all the way back to square one; with a friend it could mean the difference of showing up at a pizza place when you were really supposed to meet for ice cream. While in theory these examples may be trivial, in practice, the implications of miscommunication can be so much greater than one realizes.

Many times, even within a shared language, the way in which words are understood can be ambiguous. So much more goes into communication than just the words strung together to form a sentence or a paragraph. Oftentimes, it’s what’s between the lines that’s really talking.

Deborah Tannen uses the example of two coworkers, a man and woman, finishing a presentation. When they are on their way back, the woman tells him he did a great job, expecting a similar compliment in return. Instead, her coworker begins a soliloquy on all the things she could have improved, making her feel bad for even bringing it up. While a simple example, it demonstrates that while she did mean that her coworker had done a good job, she also assumed the underlying context of her statement was out of courtesy and that he would show the same courtesy in return. This we see did not happen, and sets the tone for the rest of this discussion.

Linguistic style is a set of culturally learned signals by which we not only communicate what we mean but also interpret others’ meaning and evaluate one another as people (68).

The example points toward the fact that cultural and social implications will underlie the ultimate meaning of what is being said, and it is wrong to assume that everyone has the same understanding of that meaning. Tannen brings up a core competency of leadership which is the awareness and engagement in cross-cultural communication. Essentially, this is having the ability to discern when communicating whether there is mutual understanding, but also altering communication style to meet the expectations of the people being communicated too. This could be cross-cultural in the sense of different cultures have different expectations, or even the recognition that within the same society, individuals may read a conversation differently given their varying experiences.

In every community known to linguists, the patterns that constitute linguistic style are relatively different for men and women (71).

While gendered differences exist in society for everything from the division of labor to the perceived innate qualities it bestows, it should come as no surprise that language has gendered implications too. Since socialization processes teach individuals specific gendered practices from the toys we play with to the clothes that we wear, it also teaches young boys and girls different pattern of speech that aligns with these gendered expectations.

Thus girls learn to talk in ways that balance their own needs with those of others – to save face for one another in the broadest sense of the term. . . . Boys learn to use language to negotiate their status in the group by displaying their abilities and knowledge, and by challenging others and resisting challenges (72).

It makes sense when gendered norms are named that young girls would be taught to speak in a more caring nature which speaks to the assumption that women are supposed to be nurturers and not necessarily in positions of power. On the other hand, boys are taught to take and authoritative stance and show aggression to prime them for their future as leaders and breadwinners in society.

Becoming more aware of these differences and how they play into the lack of women in leadership positions is key in finding a partial solution to the gender gap in leadership. Women’s tendency to be more indirect and account for one’s feelings when communicating typically lead to them being perceived as less competent, less confident, and not able to be a leader, but this is a lapse in judgment typically applied during the hiring process. If companies began to “read between the lines” so to speak and offer different ways of evaluating job candidates, we may find that women fair just as well as men, if not better. Additionally, changing the current hiring processes may be one step, but taking it one step further to teach children from a young age that anyone can be a leader is so important to the development of a new generation of leaders. We all know that communication is vital to survival in our world, so why start 50% of the population at a disadvantage right out of the gate?

To conclude, I’ll leave you with this thought which captures the heart of what I’ve described above:

You can’t assume that the other person means what you would mean if you said the same thing in the same way (73).


Quotes from HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Women and Leadership, edited by Herminia Ibarra, Deborah Tannen, and Joan C. Williams.

The Memo Every Woman Keeps On Her Desk

Grace Torrance ’21
Women and Leadership Participant

The Memo Every Woman Keeps in Her Deskpresents a workplace dilemma on how to initiate change in an environment not conducive to complete equality and inclusion relating to gender. Moreover, it challenges the roots that initiate these sentiments and weighs the consequences of bringing these to light. It relates the general decision to speak up when suffering from gender-based offenses to whether or not the audience is ready to receive and modify the actions of society. The basis of the article is a woman, working a well-respected job for 10 years at her company, who writes a memo pointing at the disturbing pattern of sexism present within the company.  She faces the dilemma of sending her memo to the CEO. Either the CEO accepts her criticisms and applies them to transform the company, or he dismisses her writing and effectively ruins her chances of advancing further within the company. Even though she feels it is critical that someone at the top knows the true dynamics of the work environment, the opportunity cost of sending it could have major consequences. The reaction of one of her friends who she attempts to confide in over whether or not to send the memo, who is a male colleague, demonstrates a further lack of clarity on this decision. One important point, as made clear later on in the article, is that the colleague fails to question whether he should cosign or offer to support the memo in an act of solitude. Coupled with an array of other professional opinions, most of them center around two ideas. One is that she should send the memo right now in order to shed light on the issue immediately, no matter the consequences. The other is that she should revise the memo and include more concrete evidence and background in order to gain support from others and have the capacity to incite the necessary change. 

There comes a time, however, that the pressures of the effects become so unbearable that something has to be done to spark the change.

Even though this narrative was written in 1993, it remains as relevant as ever in the current climate of today’s society. Similar dilemmas as to when, how, and where to point out faults in the environment that are detrimental to the inclusion and equal acceptance of women, just as with any other identifying factor such as race or sexual orientation, are potent and current predicaments. The entire rise of the #metoo movement came as a result of women making the leap to have their story of sexual assault to become public. Each and every person who said, is saying, and will say those words, faces the construct of the benefits and consequences of this language. The differing opinions make it apparent that there is no clear answer as to which atmosphere, if any, one should come out to say they have been sexually assaulted. There comes a time, however, that the pressures of the effects become so unbearable that something has to be done to spark the change.

In the company in the memo, the atmosphere is one that “slowly erodes a woman’s sense of self-worth and place.” Similar sentiments were felt that sparked the #metoo movement. With the objective of creating a warm and inclusive environment to all, there must be dramatic change stemming from the very top in order to actually make a difference. However, an important aspect of this is a collective effort; simply attacking it from the top leadership will not have an impact on the whole. There needs to be a collective effort and dedication to mediating the issue in order to effectively and completely combat it. 

A Women and Leadership Reflection on Rachel Carson

Olivia Chatowski

            As an Environmental Studies and Biology double major, I was thrilled to see Rachel Carson’s mini-bio amongst the rest of the female leader bios. After hearing about Carson’s legacy in my classes and reading pieces from her work I have always admired her. I am especially impressed with the impact she had on society for making complex environmental theories or ideas very accessible to the public to share the urgency and necessity of taking care of the environment. 

I have heard about Carson’s work, but I did not know all that much about her life and where she came from. Now that I do, I only admire her more. She was tutored by her mother who followed the nature study movement in which the child receives direct experience with nature in order to appreciate the environment scientifically and aesthetically. This is a really cool way of looking at nature which more people should consider, as nature is certainly not as appreciated as it should be. 

In school, Carson was drawn to the sciences as well as writing and majored biology and English, and went on to graduate school for zoology, despite the belief that women were not smart or fit enough to hold jobs in science. Carson was also attending school during the Great Depression, working several jobs, and supporting four other family members, highlighting her drive and love for science. Though she did have to drop out, she was still able to pursue a career as a writer in the US Bureau of Fisheries (US Fish and Wildlife Service), moving up in the ranks, and then eventually writing several very successful and impactful books. 

Rachel Carson, as the article points out was not a traditional leader, in the sense that she didn’t lead a protest or control a large group of people, but she did have an enormous impact on society, creating a movement of environmental awareness. She led within the group, as well as outside of it, calling out the large corrupt agriculture business lobbies and government bureaucracies. She was an advocate for nature rather than someone looking to exploit it.

While I was reading, I was truly inspired by Carson’s drive and commitment to her passion. Seeing another female not only succeed against the odds and leave a huge impact on society, and in a career that is similar to the one I wish to pursue. 

Sandra Day O’Conner: A Woman Who Rose to the Top

Abigail Hauer ’20

On our Women and Leadership trip to Washington DC over spring break, we visited the United States Supreme Court.  After having a private tour of the Court, including a tour of the actual Courtroom, the women of our group stopped at the temporary exhibit about the first female Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Conner.

Sandra Day O’Conner, born to ranchers in El Paso, Texas in 1930, graduated high school at age 16. She went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Economics at Stanford University and her Juris Doctorate at Stanford Law School in only two years, graduating third in her class.  O’Conner served in several legislative and judicial roles before she was appointed to the Supreme Court.  She was the Assistant Attorney General of Arizona, a State Senator for Arizona, and the first female Majority Leader of anystate.  O’Conner served as Superior Court Judge and Judge of the Arizona Court of Appeals before President Ronald Reagan formally nominated her to the vacant Supreme Court seat in August 1981.

While serving on the Court for 25 years, O’Conner was seen as the true moderate or “swing” vote. O’Conner voted in many prominent cases, such as Bush v. Goreto end the recount in Florida that ultimately led to George W Bush becoming President, but one of O’Conner’s most momentous cases was Aurelia Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, ruling that school boards can be held responsible under Title IX for “student-on-student” harassment. The case, regarding sexual harassment against fifth grader LaShonda Davis, found that the Monroe County Board of Education was deliberately indifferent as it ignored several complaints by LaShonda Davis’ mother about serious and systematic harassment.  The majority ruling, written by O’Conner, strengthened Title IX and its legitimacy for those suffering from sexual harassment.  O’Conner was recognized for her time and leadership on the Court when President Barack Obama presented her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

Sandra Day O’Conner’s journey to being appointed the first female Supreme Court Justice was that of a journey through a labyrinth.  She rose to every challenge and exceeded it, graduating high school and law school early and being ranked third in her law school class.  Not only did she break the glass ceiling when she entered the male dominated Courtroom and stood for what she believed in, she broke a glass ceiling earlier in her career when she was appointed the first female Majority Leader for anyState Senate.

I vividly remember the first time I learned about O’Conner.  I was a junior in high school taking AP US History, and one of my teacher’s last lectures was on female leaders we learned about throughout the course. Many prominent names were discussed: Abigail Adams, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony, Alice Paul, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Sarah Palin to name a handful.  But the one who stuck out to me was Sandra Day O’Conner. Why?  Because she was the first female to rise to the highest position in one of the three branches of federal government.  Two of the three branches of American government have had female leaders, and it is time that the executive has one, too.

O’Conner continues to be an inspirational figure to me because of how she came to be such a successful female leader.  She “pulled herself up from her boot straps” as she worked for everything she accomplished—nothing was handed to her.  Shegraduated high school at 16.  Shegraduated law school in two years.  Shegraduated third in her law school class.  Shebecame the first female Majority Leader in any State Senate.  Shewas appointed the first female Supreme Court Justice.  Sheearned everything.

As a woman who hopes to be as successful as Sandra Day O’Conner, she continually inspires me to work hard and earn everything on my own merit.  She inspires me to enter the labyrinth of male-dominated fields and to break every glass ceiling that women face.  She inspires me to be a female leader no matter what I do in life.

“Now What?”

Amanda Carrier, ’22

The chapter “Now What?” by Joan C. Williams and Suzanne Lebsock discusses the grave issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, along with how to take steps towards a healthier workplace environment. The authors start off by referencing the Harvey Weinstein case and they explain that it sparked several more similar accusations. Williams and Lebsock then go on to point out that this issue of sexual harassment is not a battle between men and women, rather it is “a fight over whether a small subgroup of predatory men should be allowed to interfere with people’s ability to show up and do what they signed up for : work” (Lebsock and Williams 120). The authors explain how this shift in culture is extremely significant, and it means that social norms at work will never go back to the way they were before. They point out that the bottom line of the shift is that women are now being believed. This is linked to the #MeToo movement, where women on social media share their sexual harassment stories. The more women that reveal their stories, the more credible the stories of all of these women as a whole become.

            The authors then go on to talk about the shift that is happening in regards to punishment, from quiet settlements to firing. The fact that this is occurring is very positive because it means that workplaces are trying to make an example of their fired employees, and show that they will no longer tolerate harassment in their environment.

            In the next section, they explain the proper way for men to act towards women in the workplace. First of all, the only way to tell what someone wants is to ask that person, Williams and Lebsock say. It is never safe for a man to assume that a woman is interested. When socializing with colleagues outside of work for networking purposes, it is not acceptable to make inappropriate remarks, or do any other inappropriate behavior. When complimenting a coworker on her outfit, there should be no suggestive implications. Men should not be scared of all these rules. They should not start avoiding women in order to avoid creating a problem. Doing so is illegal because it excludes women, which is its own problem. It is also important for women to speak up in the moment.

            Andrea S. Kramer and Alton B. Harris also contributed to this article. In their section, they discuss the way a business should go about cultivating a safe, harassment free environment in their workplace. Their recommended main steps are : Communicate with employees, Draw up your survey, and Evaluate. The survey should be short, concise, unambiguous, and very clearly anonymous. When evaluating the statistical results, they should be used to figure out if and what further steps need to be taken to create a better work environment.

A Reflection on “Leadership in the Women’s Movement”

Annie Palmer, ’20

The feminist movement has been defined by three distinct waves of feminism, which cover a range of agendas and needs at verging intersections to influence change and progress ultimately demanding a fight for equality of the sexes in all aspects of life.

The first wave of feminism fought for the suffrage for women globally. This was a defining obstacle, which women faced from the 1880s all the way until winning the vote in 1920. Women needed a dynamic facet to give them legal equality in order to redefine a woman’s role in society. On the forefront the women’s suffrage movement grew from an international stage and challenged institutions of social constraints such as race and class oppression. The first wave in America initially grew out of the Abolitionist movement from the rise of strong leadership of mostly middle class white women and did not give equality to black women. Later the movement became separated as a whole when the leadership held different perspectives, focus and philosophies, in particular, whether to use moderate or militant tactics. Leading figures spoke volumes to define women’s rights and substantiate the first wave of feminism of the 20th century with the vote. 

The second wave of the women’s movement was characterized by women on the more conservative branch seeking political reform and women on the radical branch promoting an alternative women’s culture. All women of the movement challenged the institutions of gender inequality and the status of women in society. Reform organizations used spokespersons as leaders often in political reform, while radical leadership used collective tactics. The development of nonhierarchical leadership of moderate and radical groups took the second wave to the left side of the political spectrum. The women’s movement was cognizant of redefining leadership to the feminist conception of power to avoid the male model of domination. Power for women was non-hierarchical through empowering one another to share equal power through the force of shared leadership. However, the influence of media has pushed forward women in the public eye as leaders of the movement, which distorted leadership for the second wave and gave a stronger visual dynamic to white women over colored women in the movement. Yet, women with strong voices help to redefine feminism bringing women of different classes and races to work together to not only fight for women’s issues but human rights, environment concerns, sovereignty, etc.

The third wave of the feminist movement comes from a generation born into a world of benefits their mothers fought for. They can approach feminism from a more formal approach after being exposed to feminist leadership training. The third-wave movement’s success is also owed to the changing forms of distribution of communication shaping leadership roles by those who defied norms to create social change and to continue to protect the rights that were given to them into the future. The progress of the first and second wave influenced the third wave and the growth of active participants.

With the progressive growth of the feminist movement of the three different waves the natural question is what is next for the feminist movement? Are we growing towards a fourth wave of neoliberalism, or intersectional feminist?  It seems there is an array of different perspectives and leadership of the women’s movement. A leading woman of today, who I have identified with, who stands out to define my generation is Sophia Bush. An actress who has been a role model for many women. She has spoken out as an activist of equal rights for all humans. Her definition of feminism, “It’s so not complicated… I watch everybody fight over whether it’s appropriate to be a feminist or not. And I sit here thinking, well, I’m a woman. I would like to be judged on the quality of my work, I would like to be compensated fairly for my work. I would like to have just as much access to healthcare as any man. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. I don’t know what the big fight is all about… Believing in my right to live as well and as well-protected in the world as a man, doesn’t mean I hate men. And it doesn’t mean I’m going to burn all my bras and throw away all my high heels. I don’t want to be judged for wearing [heels]. I don’t want to be judged for wearing motorcycle boots either. It just feels like there’s so much stuff that gets placed on women that if we truly had equal opportunity wouldn’t even be in the conversation.”

Her voice touches my inner self and I relate to the call for equality and opportunity.  It is what we see when we look back to all the waves of feminism. It is the same universal message, to be heard and the share in equality. It is important to remember that for women feminism is working towards equality for men and women. If we fight one another we lose site of the equal ground for all people. It doesn’t matter what the color of our skin is, or our economic class, where we went to school, it about living in a society where we are not defined by stereotypes, but and can work to create an environment where we can all feel and be equal. We need to work as leaders to create a place where everyone is confident and comfortable to express who we are.

Navigating the Labyrinth

Emily Dalgleish ’22

From a young age, I have received a lot of support from my parents, teachers, coaches, and peers in becoming a leader. I am privileged in that I have not faced any grand obstacle that has prevented me from success. Instead, it is the smaller moments of prejudice that lead me to self-doubt and confusion. The feeling of being lost in my leadership has been a consistent experience in my development as a leader. For that reason, I believe that in their essay Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership, Eagly’s and Carli’s description of the challenges of leadership as a woman as a labyrinth rather than a glass ceiling, is very fitting.  

Moments in the labyrinth can seem small, but they arise frequently. When a man takes credit for my work, I question whether I deserve recognition. When someone does not like me, I question whether I am too strict to be warm. When someone does not respect my authority, I question whether I am too weak to be taken seriously. When preparing for an event, I question whether my hair will look professional enough. When I publicly speak, I am hyper-aware of the pitch of my voice. When meeting new people, I downplay my strengths and accomplishments to avoid seeming egotistical. I can get stuck, and don’t know where to turn next. I struggle to find a balance between my femininity and my authority, two traits which should not be dichotomous but often feel like they are. I fear that my ambition and confidence scares people away. As a leader, I have learned that I must take responsibility for my actions, but sometimes that means when I experience prejudice, I place the blame on myself

Eagly and Carli provide many suggestions for managers on how to make their labyrinths less difficult for women to navigate, but they don’t provide many suggestions for those of us in the labyrinth. So, I would like to share some of the lessons I have learned while lost in the labyrinth:  

  1. Find a mentor: If you know someone who has walked the same path before and gained perspective, they can provide guidance to you and understand the same barriers and dead-ends you have encountered.  
  2. Ask for help: Sometimes when you are at your most lost, you don’t want others to know. During those moments are when it is most important to call for help. Admitting you know when you are lost can help you find your way out faster, and it lets other people who are also lost know that they aren’t alone. 
  3. Bring some shears: Instead of turning around when you get stuck, you can cut down the barrier for yourself and for the people who come after. Make people aware when they are treating you unfairly, and you will make the environment better for other women in the future. 
  4. Study the labyrinth: If you want to find your way through, it can help to know what you are walking into before you start. Know that you will encounter barriers and know what those barriers look like, so you can know how to get around them or take them down.  
  5. Enjoy your confusion: It can be enjoyable to wander. You don’t have to know where you are going, and you can learn on the way. 

My greatest growth as a leader has come from the moments when I am not confident in what do or how to do it, but I act anyways. Learning to navigate barriers and confusion makes us better leaders, which is precisely why more women need to be in positions of power.  

Sexuality and the “Demands of Family Life”

Brianna Bruccoleri ’21

Coming into this program focused on women and leadership, I knew I would share a perspective which differs from the majority of my peers mainly due to my sexuality: I identify as a gay woman. While reading, my sexuality became incredibly pertinent. For example, when reading about leadership styles of men and women, I felt myself identifying more so with the leadership traits associated with masculinity. However, the Demands of Family Life section truly and most apparently gave me a perspective which I have never had to consider.

Within my relationships, I tend to be the more driven and ambitious woman. I do not see myself being in a relationship where I am not the more dominant partner—it is the way in which I express myself in relationships. Although, because of this, I have never had to consider eventually taking time away from work to begin a family as I grow older because I have always expected it to be my partner who does this task. Furthermore, my mother is the primary worker within my household while my father predominately has dealt with childcare. In a way, I have become blind to gender and sexuality within the household because it has never pertained to my family or way of life. This section, though, helped me come to the realization that simply because I have not encountered a stigma towards women within the workplace concerning familial pursuits does not mean that it does not occur—it is rampant.     

Reading the first chapter of On Women and Leadership, in a sense, allowed me to check the privilege which I never knew I had: my sexuality.  My leadership style has never been questioned—it almost seems to be expected that I will be assertive and strong. I have never thought of leaving work to start a family, as my mother never had to and I never thought of it because of my place in romantic relationships. Reading this chapter allowed me to gain a perspective which I otherwise would not have been able to obtain otherwise, and it has made me more aware of not just being a woman in leadership positions, but being a gay woman in leadership positions. It does spark curiosity, though: will I not have to deal with the common hurdles a heterosexual woman must encounter, or, will I not be able to continue life so fortunately?

A Hike About Ike

Prior to spring break, I embarked on a tour of the town of Gettysburg as part of the Eisenhower Institute’s Eisenhower in Gettysburg program. Instead of a tour focused on the Civil War or Battle of Gettysburg, National Park Service Ranger Alyce Evans from the Eisenhower National Historic Site guided us on a tour which emphasized places that had ties to Ike.

The Eisenhower in Gettysburg cohort has met over lunch throughout the spring semester to learn and discuss the connection between Eisenhower and Gettysburg. One realization that startled me as I began this program was the longevity of Eisenhower’s connection to Gettysburg (Ike’s first interaction with Gettysburg occurred in 1915 when he was a West Point cadet visiting the battlefield), and the way the Eisenhower connections have been quietly preserved.

While the words and impact of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address are ingrained in the very being of the town of Gettysburg, and numerous statues of Lincoln are present in Gettysburg, for many years a lone statue outside the Admissions building served as a small reminder of how Gettysburg served as home and haven to Dwight D. Eisenhower for almost two decades.

It was in 1950 when Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower purchased a 189-acre farm, and in 1961 when the Eisenhowers retired to their farm after a long career in public service.

Eisenhower still spent time at his farm prior to his retirement. After renovations finished in 1955, Ike enjoyed playing golf and inspecting his herd of Angus cattle. The farm also served as a “Temporary White House” as Dwight recovered from his heart attack in 1955. World leaders were invited at the behest of Eisenhower to visit his farm — an event which demonstrates how his public service extended to his personal home.

We began the tour at the Eisenhower Institute, which served as a home for the Eisenhowers in the summer of 1918. This was the longest concentrated time the Eisenhowers spent with their son, Icky. Ranger Alyce mentioned that the personal time Mamie and Dwight were able to spend time with their son would shape their memory of Gettysburg. This would, of course, contribute to one of the reasons why the Eisenhowers chose Gettysburg as their permanent home.

We then moved out of this personal space of the Eisenhowers, and made our way to the Christ Lutheran Church, town square, and St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church. These three locations connected more to his public service as both an army officer, and later as president.

It was at the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church where men from Camp Colt who were affected by the Spanish Influenza were quarantined as an attempt to prevent the flu from spreading. The impact the Spanish Influenza on the camp and town was devastating. Places of meeting and congregation, like schools, were closed. Ranger Alyce shared with us that while Ike certainly expected to lose men at some point during his career, he did not imagine that he would lose men at Camp Colt in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Fast forward to Eisenhower’s run for the presidency. We stood in the town square, looking at photos that hearkened back to the Gettysburg that Ike would recognize. One photograph depicted Eisenhower parading through the circle — the crowd in the photo a testament to Ike’s popularity and the town’s pride in being home to a president. Ranger Alyce pointed towards the Majestic Theater, a space which served as a meeting place for journalists, who were eager to share the news of the president’s recuperation in 1955, and doctors, who kept the media updated.

The tour led by Ranger Alyce helped further my understanding and knowledge of Eisenhower’s time in Gettysburg. That the cohort was able to walk through town and see places that possessed an important link to Eisenhower, allowed us to learn a “quieter” aspect of Gettysburg’s history and Eisenhower’s connection to such a historic place.

Women Empowering Other Women

Hanna Panreck ’19

Hanna Panreck ’19, Women and Leadership Participant

“It conveys the idea of a complex journey toward a goal worth striving for. Passage through a labyrinth is not simple or direct, but requires persistence, awareness of one’s progress, and a careful analysis of the puzzles that lie ahead.”

Alice H. Eagly and Linda L. Carli 

In their essay “Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership,” Alice H. Eagly and Linda L. Carli attempt to reevaluate the typical glass ceiling metaphor that women face in their professional careers. The glass ceiling notion suggests there is no overcoming the barriers that women are faced with professionally; it suggests that there are no ways women can break through the ceiling, that there is a stopping point. The concept of a labyrinth suggests that women can overcome this barrier, which is an important reevaluation. Their definition of “labyrinth” illustrates perfectly what women face in their career paths. Not only does it explain the challenge, it also mentions something central to female leadership. Being aware of one’s progress is so important to being a successful leader. I think it’s the most common mistake women make in their leadership path. Recognizing progress, even the little things, is important because it makes a woman want to keep going- it makes her want to speak up a little more often.

Alice H. Eagly and Linda L. Carli attempt to reevaluate the typical glass ceiling metaphor that women face in their professional careers. The glass ceiling notion suggests there is no overcoming the barriers that women are faced with professionally; it suggests that there are no ways women can break through the ceiling, that there is a stopping point. The concept of a labyrinth suggests that women can overcome this barrier, which is an important reevaluation. Their definition of “labyrinth” illustrates perfectly what women face in their career paths. Not only does it explain the challenge, it also mentions something central to female leadership. Being aware of one’s progress is so important to being a successful leader. I think it’s the most common mistake women make in their leadership path. Recognizing progress, even the little things, is important because it makes a woman want to keep going- it makes her want to speak up a little more often.

I have learned that if I celebrate my small successes in terms of being a leader, like if I get through to someone on my rugby team, if I recognize a problem and solve it, or if I speak up in a difficult situation, that I am more likely to keep progressing in the right direction. The more confidence a woman has the closer she is to succeeding. There is no doubt women face many difficulties in their professional careers with the double bind and with familial pressures, but I think a lot of the difficulty stems from a fear, an anxiety that comes with being a woman in the public eye. As President and Captain of the Women’s Rugby team here at Gettysburg I learn at every practice, at every game, at every team dinner, what it means to lead a group of women. A huge part of leading other women is positive encouragement, being aware of my teammate’s progress, and setting goals. Positivity is so important to a successful and respected team. It’s a little bit different from a professional career, considering my team is all women but I learn so much from them about how I can be a better leader. My teammates also get to learn from me, when they see that I’m trying to do the best I can, they do the same. I make more informed choices with my team’s support. Just as in a professional situation, focus groups, cohorts, and teams can make better decisions if there is more than one woman involved in the decision making. Women bring an entirely different perspective to the table, and they often are not heard because of their lack of numbers in a group situation. There is also an administrative side to running a club rugby team here at Gettysburg, and in the administrative situations we are a little bit exposed to this professional, career focused labyrinth. 

Every year the Presidents and Vice Presidents of the women’s rugby teams in eastern PA meet in the spring for an annual meeting. The meeting is held to make decisions about the spring season and about the upcoming fall season. This year we had several female representatives from each school in attendance, yet the meeting seemed to be run by the only two men in the room. The eastern PA women’s rugby union is run by a man a woman. The other man in the room was the head of the referee society in eastern PA. The men took over the conversation, despite this woman being an equal part of their leadership, she barely spoke. Not to mention the other women in the room, the players, weren’t there to make decisions, or weigh in on anything, we were there to listen to the decisions he had already made about our upcoming seasons. This meeting was supposed to be an opportunity for the rugby teams in the area to voice their concerns about scheduling, training, finances, or anything. When the female leader could get in word, the male leader would take credit for it by repeating what she had said or saying it a little bit differently. To combat this, the representatives from Gettysburg participated by raising our hands and agreeing with the female leader. We said her name when we spoke up, but the other representatives were relatively silent throughout the meeting. Not only was my comment a personal success, it was also a way to recognize the female leader’s success.

“Labyrinths become infinitely more tractable when seen from above. When the eye can take in the whole of the puzzle—the starting position, the goal, and the maze of walls—the solutions begin to suggest themselves.” 

Alice H. Eagly and Linda L. Carli

Overall, to stay engaged in this labyrinth, women need to help one another by being aware not only of personal leadership success, but of other female leadership success. After I commended her idea in that meeting, she spoke up a little more often, and the male leader that took over the discussion stepped back a little bit. It was tough to see a whole room full of well educated women silenced by two men running a discussion that primarily concerned us, but I think these situations can be remedied by this labyrinth model.