Women more prevalent in leadership but suffer from myths, speaker says

Jennifer Nacin

Although many women around the world hold leadership positions, myths and misconceptions continue to follow them as they attempt to break through the glass ceiling, said a visiting expert.

A lecture designed to dispel these perceptions and clarify women’s role in global leadership positions will be given at Iowa State. Laura Liswood, the spring 2005 Mary Louise Smith Chair in Women and Politics at Iowa State, will give her lecture titled “Women’s World Leadership: Lessons and Myths” on Tuesday.

Dianne Bystrom, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, said the lecture is relevant because of the emerging prominence of women leaders.

“With the current world situation, with the war in Iraq, with Condoleezza [Rice’s] appointment and women fighting in Iraq, women’s world leadership has never been more important than it is today,” she said. “Here is a woman who has worked with leaders across the world. She will bring a perspective that we don’t hear much in Iowa.”

Bystrom said Liswood will discuss the status of women in leadership roles worldwide and how other countries compare to one another, many of which do a better job than the United States of putting women in elected positions.

“We thought we’d look to see how the United States compares to other countries in terms of women leaders,” Bystrom said.

Jill Bystydzienski, director of the women’s studies program, said the types of myths Liswood will discuss include the notion that women only arrive at leadership positions because of family or men with power in their lives. She said these myths need to be addressed because women are appearing more often in global leadership roles — governmental, corporate, organizational or educational.

“Our media doesn’t really focus much on other parts of the world and particularly women leaders in other parts of the world,” Bystydzienski said.

Liswood is a senior adviser at the Goldman, Sachs and Co. Bank in New York City, where she researches workforce diversity and globalization to better understand women in leadership roles from a global perspective.

The lecture is scheduled to take place at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union.

The lecture is part of the Advancing Women Leaders series, sponsored by the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, the Office of the Provost, the University Committee on Women and the Women’s Leadership Consortium.