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.