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Diversity and Leadership

Leadership, at its core, consists of persuading others to do what you want them to do. Therefore, leadership skills are present in anybody who can inspire others to follow them. Leadership exists outside of formal “leadership roles” in organisations and societies. Leadership has diverse connotations depending on whom you ask, where you go, and what you do. It is always a varied job, however. Successful leaders make it possible for their followers to achieve their goals. It determines the course of action, formulates an overarching strategy, and adjusts to changing conditions. To “win” as a group or company, you need a plan, which is what leadership is all about. The term “diversity” is used to describe the many ways in which individuals vary from one another. When we talk about diversity, we talk about all the obvious and invisible characteristics that make up a person.

Case Study Of Diversity And Leadership In The Contemporary Environment

Taylor Swift’s “The Man” highlights the differences in how men and women are treated in the workplace. The song’s lyrics speak about the differences in how men and women are judged by society. In the lyrics, Taylor Swift is questioning if her being a woman is what hinders her from achieving her dreams. The video shows a man at the workplace, at home and in leisure activities. A man is allowed to occupy space even when it causes discomfort to others. For example, the scene on the train where the man sits with his legs spread out, expecting the women to adjust themselves for his comfort.

The first theme portrayed in this video is sexism in the workplace. Discrimination against someone because of their gender or sexual orientation is called sexism. Although sexism affects people of both genders, it disproportionately negatively impacts women and girls (Heise et al., 2019). It has been associated with rigid gender norms and the possibility of privileging one sex or gender over another. Harassment, rape, and other sexual violence may flourish in a sexist environment. Discrimination based on a person’s gender may include sexism.

The second theme portrayed in the song is the lack of diversity in top management and leadership positions. According to the song, it is easier for a man to break the “glass ceiling” in the corporate world than for women. More often than not, women are expected to work harder and behave in a specific way to qualify for a top management position. Every aspect of a woman’s life is considered before being placed in companies’ top management (UNHR, 2022). Issues such as marital status, children, sex life, temperament and other minor details become an issue when a woman is trying to climb the corporate ladder. As portrayed in the lyrics and the video, these issues are overlooked regarding men.

Another message that forms the message would be how women have to shrink themselves and be agreeable around male figures even when their personal space is violated and disregarded. An excellent example of this is in the video scene where the man sits between a group of women, occupies more space than he needs to and proceeds to hand over newspapers he is not reading to the women next to him like they are there to serve him. Although this may be an extreme portrayal of violation of personal space, there are many instances where women have had to be quiet about being disrespected to avoid causing a scene.

The fourth theme/message from the video touches on how men, compared to women, get applauded for doing their duty. This is portrayed in the video where the man sits at the park with his child, and the women, doing the same duty, gather around to clap for him. This is a common occurrence in society whereby in some cases, childcare is referred to as “babysitting “when the father does it, but it is considered a duty and responsibility when a woman does it.

How These Themes Impact Diversity

Sexism hinders diversity in the workplace. Sexism leads to the discrimination of women in the workplace. Because of sexism, women are considered weaker, less intelligent, and less capable of doing the work. As a result, they have to work extra hard to earn promotions while men do the bare minimum to get the same positions (Henderson, Simon and Henicheck, 2018). Workplace discrimination harms women’s incomes and opportunities in several ways, including the gender pay gap, the dearth of women in leadership roles, and the longer time required for women (vs males) to progress in their professions. In other words, discrimination against women at work decreases their socioeconomic status. HR regulations and decision-making are the main culprits behind such discrimination against women (Stamarski & Son Hing, 2015). Additionally, employees may hear sexist comments when interacting with corporate decision-makers through HR procedures or learning the outcomes of HR-related decisions. The objective disadvantages of lesser income, status, and employment possibilities, as well as the subjective experiences of stigmatisation, influence women’s psychological and physical stress, mental and physical health, work satisfaction, organisational commitment, and ultimately their performance.

Women often suffer when it comes to workplace diversity. Regardless of how well they perform or are skilled at their employment, institutional discrimination refers to human resource procedures that are essentially biased against a particular group of people. Institutional discrimination against women may occur in recruiting and selecting employees, job assignments, training, salaries, performance reviews, promotions, and terminations (Bader et al., 2018). When, for instance, specific educational criteria or previous job experience are essential to be considered for selection in an area where women are underrepresented, discrimination against women occurs consistently, albeit sometimes inadvertently (Leavitt et al., 2022). When a test is incorporated in the selection process that results in more significant gender discrepancies than job performance assessments, this constitutes another type of gender discrimination. As a consequence, institutional bias may exist in several areas of HR selection policy and may negatively affect the employment outcomes for women.

The issue of women shrinking themselves and being “less” to avoid confrontation is rooted in a lack of confidence. This, however, comes from years of being conditioned to feel like they are not good enough to compete with men. Men, like women, have self-doubts but tend to push through them more quickly. Males are more likely to apply for a job or promotion if they satisfy just 60% of the requirements, whereas females wait until they meet all requirements (Ahmed et al., 2021). Women are particularly concerned about being despised, ugly, or the centre of attention.

Lastly, applauding men for performing duties that are overlooked when women perform them leads to a loss of confidence among women. This affects diversity in the workplace and outside regarding how duties are assigned. Because of this issue, we see more women pushed towards domestic duties while their male counterparts grow their careers. This can be seen in offices where in some cases, women are asked to perform duties such as passing around snacks in meetings or taking notes even if it is not in their job description. This hinders women’s growth both at home and in the workplace.

How The Themes Impact Leadership

Sexism affects leadership structures in organisations. The unequal treatment of women and men in the workplace is a prime example of gender discrimination. Possible causes include cultural or societal standards and expectations (Fisk & Overton, 2019). The song speaks of how men get away with things that women are judged harshly. For instance, women are expected to be more agreeable and sexier to appeal to people, while men are only judged for their performance. This affects women’s ability to command respect because they are judged more on their appearance and agreeableness than their ability to lead.

The lack of gender parity in the workplace hinders leadership. Women often miss out on critical decisions because they are denied seats at the table (Fisk & Overton, 2019). For instance, the song’s video and lyrics portray a picture of a society where women are pushed to the back to let men shine. Women are reduced to playing things for the men as they cut deals and climbed the corporate ladder.

Women shrink themselves to avoid looking confrontational or argumentative, which affects leadership structures. Leaders are meant to be outspoken and assertive. When men do this, they are seen as an alpha coming from a woman; it is considered rude and loud (Hindman & Walker, 2020). An example shown in the video was the differences in reactions to Serena Williams getting angry and the court compared to roger Federer acting the same way. While Serena was castigated and punished for her behaviour, Rogers’s reaction was appropriate in that scenario.

Lastly, when men are applauded for performing their duties and women are not, it discourages women from performing these duties. This affects leadership because it affects women’s confidence to seek leadership positions. This reaction teaches women to stay in their place, which according to society is in the home, or how some people see it, “A woman’s place is in the kitchen.”

How Diversity Impacts Leadership And Vice Versa

Since changing an organisation’s culture as a whole is necessary, increasing diversity in the workplace is complex. In the business sector, men have historically held the majority of occupations. Culture on many different levels emerged and became ingrained in the workforce. Workers are forced to adjust to this culture; specifically, women may experience fear and defensiveness if they see the challenge as an attack on their identity (Castaño et al., 2019). A competent leader prepared to interact with people via their complex, personal beliefs must facilitate a cultural transformation.

Leaders in an organisation are crucial in shaping and supporting employees’ attitudes and behaviours in the workplace. Leaders provide guidelines for how their team members will do their duties. Therefore followers turn to them for guidance. To foster an environment that matches a company’s ideals, executives must do more than speak the company’s beliefs; they must also live them out in their actions. If their CEOs espouse particular beliefs but act in ways that contradict them, employees will go elsewhere for a company that epitomises the culture they want to participate in. Lack of honesty in the workplace may considerably hinder recruiting and keeping talented people when considering workplace diversity.

Implications on Policies

When leaders work to change the culture of their businesses, they must not just change the thinking of their subordinates and employees—they must also reflect on their behaviour and make personal progress. If leaders want to know what to expect when interacting with workers from different backgrounds, they should start by figuring out how they feel and what their prejudices are (Edelman & van Knippenberg, 2018). They will be able to assess their leadership style and skills via this introspection and determine what components will best support them and hinder them as they navigate this cultural change.

Awareness, comprehension, and participation are the building blocks of cultural competence, which is essential for genuine diversity to flourish. Being a diversity advocate is not as simple as deciding to do so. Leaders must face their biases and ignorance, educate themselves on the cultural norms and practises of the groups with whom they will engage, and only then will they be able to encourage diversity within their community (Resnick & Fuller, 2021). This is of utmost significance for those in authoritative positions. Before attempting to foster a diverse workforce, they should be aware of the obstacles they may face. Business leaders should reflect on their implicit biases and racial and ethnic assumptions.


One’s prejudices are shaped by upbringing and the people and experiences that influence them. The unconscious nature of bias makes it all the more important to look for tools that might help you identify the social groupings you tend to favour. Leaders must examine their biases, language, and actions while communicating with others from different cultural backgrounds. People might potentially learn to overcome their biases via self-education if they gain an understanding of their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Leaders must realise this is a continuous process and be open to and receptive to feedback at all times. Mistakes will be made while discussing diversity and inclusion, as they will be when discussing any sensitive issue. Leaders need compassion, humility, and a thirst for knowledge when faced with such challenges. However, they should also be prepared for disagreement and discomfort as they seek to comprehend the viewpoints of others.


Ahmed, A., Granberg, M., & Khanna, S. (2021). Gender discrimination in hiring: An experimental reexamination of the Swedish case. PLOS ONE16(1), e0245513.

Bader, B., Stoermer, S., Bader, A., & Schuster, T. (2018). Institutional discrimination of women and workplace harassment of female expatriates. Journal Of Global Mobility6(1), 40-58.

Castaño, A., Fontanil, Y., & García-Izquierdo, A. (2019). “Why Can’t I Become a Manager?”—A Systematic Review of Gender Stereotypes and Organisational Discrimination. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health16(10), 1813.

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Leavitt, K., Zhu, L., Klotz, A., & Kouchaki, M. (2022). Fragile or robust? Differential effects of gender threats in the workplace among men and women. Organisational Behavior And Human Decision Processes, p. 168, 104112.

Resnick, S., & Fuller, J. (2021). Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Meeting New Demands—and Requirements—for Accountability. Board Leadership2021(174), 4-8.

Stamarski, C., & Son Hing, L. (2015). Gender inequalities in the workplace: the effects of organisational structures, processes, practices, and decision makers’ sexism. Frontiers In Psychology6(1), 2-7.

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