In Defense Of “Female Language” In Leadership Roles

Repeat after me: “Women are not the problem.” Go ahead, say it a few more times. Say it until you really start to believe it. Make it your mantra.

In the conversation about female leadership and its relationship to the way that we speak, we are too often painted as the primary problem.

If women could learn to be more like men in their professional lives, they would be making up half of all government and CEO positions already.*

Well, ladies, I’m going to call bullshit on that one. While it is imperative that women learn their value and change their language to reflect that, it is also imperative that society shifts the way that it views power and leadership.

Women are too often demonized for using emotive phrases like “I think” and “I feel” because they come across as undermining what follows them. However, these phrases do not inherently betray a lack of confidence; in reality, they can demonstrate a much more acute sense of emotional intelligence.

EQ, or emotional quotient, is a new buzzword in the business world. Rather than relying too heavily on autocratic power, multiple psychological studies find that leaders are most effective when they can actively engage and encourage their subordinates and coworkers.

This type of leadership, contrary to popular belief, is androgynous. It blends culturally masculine and feminine behaviors and has been proven to foster impressive results in the workplace.

Biologically there is nothing that makes women naturally more emotional than men (no, ladies, not even your periods). The culprit is that we have been socialized to accommodate others and shirk away from assertive language, commonly for fear of appearing aggressive or bitchy.  On top of that, we have been socialized to believe that masculine behavior equals and effects authority.

However, women’s preference for more emotive language makes us more relatable and statistically better at effecting large-scale results. Our language does not reveal a lack of competence, rather it appeals to the competence of others.

There is a difference between competence and confidence, and more often than not women demonstrate plenty of the former but lack the latter. Confidence comes from acceptance, and it is time we accepted the fact that, despite the bad rep it gets in popular media, there is great value in “female language” and female leadership.

While it is necessary to abandon things like the overused apology, there is no need for us to adapt to the male-oriented leadership style when we have valuable things to offer, too.

*This is an actual, unironic comment from a NYTimes article.

Image via Hannah Bettis

Marissa Kessenich

Editorial Contributor, The University of Texas at Austin Major: English and History Her heart belongs to: books (esp. historical fiction and science fiction), tacos, red wine, European adventures, and Oscar Isaac Take her away to: somewhere new--but preferably warm and sandy...with water...and cocktails with little umbrellas

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