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. 

Doing Gender

Keyshla Guillon ’19

Keyshla Guillon ’19, Women and Leadership Participant

The first chapter of the book On Women and Leadership confirmed most of the things I believed were true. I remember when I was younger, I dressed like a tomboy. Nobody around me understood why I liked the things I liked, being a girl. Instead of being with my older sister, I would always be with my younger brother. We were closer in age and had similar interests. He liked playing video games and so did I. He liked riding bikes and running around the park without caring about getting dirt on his shoes. So did I. However, whereas he was freely allowed to express these behaviors given that he was a young boy, my mom began to tell me how I needed to start acting more like a lady because I was getting to an age where I had to properly act my gender. She would shout to me in a frustrated tone saying things like, “You’re not a boy like your brother, you can’t get dirty in those dresses I got you!” I would ignore her because I liked being able to play outside without caring about getting dirty. That ruined the fun. Nonetheless, after so many months of her repeating the same things to me, I finally gave in.

I started behaving more “properly” and like the young women she wanted me to be. She would send me to my aunt’s salon every weekend so I could straighten my hair since it helped me look more well-kept. I would wear the dresses she got me and eventually, I became interested in all things associated with being “a girl”. However, I resent the fact that my mother did not allow me to come to terms with who I was on my own. I wish she could have let me develop into the person I was meant to be without pressuring me to do it before I was ready.

“‘Social truths’–what it means to appropriately act ones gender–are made up of social constructs made to keep women inferior to men.”

Knowing this, I strongly believe that children do not come up with these social constructs of what it means to be a “boy” and a “girl” by themselves. I am sure there is research to support this. As a child, I tried to defy my mother by being who I was comfortable being at the moment. All I wanted was to be a normal child but instead felt like I was pushed to grow too fast without understanding why. I didn’t understand that the answer was right in front of me the whole time. When I gained more knowledge about the culture around me, I realized that the only reason I got treated so differently from my brother was because he was a boy, which made me question everything in society. This is why I am so interested in Sociology. The way our communities are constructed allows individuals to be taught stereotypical ways of performing gender. However, it took experience and education for me to learn that these “social truths”– what it means to appropriately act ones gender–are made up of social constructs made to keep women inferior to men.

With my knowledge, I hope to break these boundaries by becoming a part of a team where I am not the only woman taking on a leadership role. I want to be sure that the company I am working for in the future prioritizes diversity. In order to achieve this type of setting in my future, I must first practice on becoming being more open with people. Someone cannot be a great leader if no one knows anything about them. There is little to look up to if the individual seems more like a robot more than a human being. Therefore, I chose this action because I must learn to be more trusting towards those I work with to successfully create an environment where we all humanize one another instead of seeing each other as solely “workers”. Solid and strong relationships within the workplace create a foundation where we all work in the best interest of the other. For instance, instead of someone just being my co-worker, they may also end up being a great mentor for me or vise-versa if I give them the chance to get to know me a little better. All in all, it is important for me to build as many social relationships as I can with those around me because this would help me obtain better relationships with others.

Women and Leadership

The Eisenhower Institute’s newly re-launched Women and Leadership program is off to a great start. Under the leadership of Dr. Anne Douds, a former trial lawyer and policy consultant, students will examine the intersections between gender and leadership in government, business, and other fields.

Setting the agenda for the semester.

In addition to meeting practitioners in Gettysburg and Washington D.C. to discuss their professional experiences and career paths, students will journal and reflect on their own leadership journeys. Throughout the semester, we will share some of these reflections here on Ike’s Anvil. We invite you to share your own thoughts on the concepts and issues raised by the cohort by commenting on their posts and sharing your own experiences with them.

Ike’s Anvil: Reforged

The Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College is excited to re-launch Ike’s Anvil in anticipation of new content this spring. While the original site served its purpose well, certain limitations inspired us to launch an updated platform to showcase student engagement with the most pressing challenges of our time. Moreover, we have expanded the remit of the Anvil to focus on issues of public policy and leadership development to better reflect the mission of the Eisenhower Institute and the content of our blog. 

Our new content will focus on four areas: 

  • Nation & World
  • Campus & Community
  • EI Events
  • EI Programs

This semester, reflections from the Women and Leadership program will be the first to be featured on our relaunched site. 

Interested in content from 2010-2018? You can find these at the Ike’s Anvil Archive.