Year Published: 2006

Author: Sumru Erkut, Ph.D.

This paper is based on interviews conducted with 60 prominent women leaders featured in Inside Women's Power (Erkut & Winds of Change Foundation, 2001). It is an elaboration of two unexpected themes that emerged in the interviews: (1) motherhood and other family roles as training ground for leadership and (2) motherhood as a metaphor for leadership. Recognizing good mothering as a metaphor and training for leadership was unexpected because it represents a radical departure from the early traditional advice for women aspiring to leadership to 'become more like men'. Some of the leaders in this study were secure enough in their work roles that they could describe leadership using language derived from their lived experience as women. At least among women who have reached top levels of leadership, there was a level of comfort that allowed them to bring to their work a more integrated sense of being a woman and a leader. This is a positive development that contrasts with many anecdotal stories of women feeling the pressure to leave behind their motherhood and other aspects of being a woman when they enter the world of leadership.

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