Should women leaders use soft power to keep usual jinx at bay?

The exit of Juliana Cherera from the prestigious docket of the vice chairperson of the Independent, Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has dealt yet another heavy blow to women in leadership.

Juliana together with two colleagues called it quits after facing pressure over their controversial stand on the outcome of the presidential elections. Unfortunately, Juliana joins a growing list of women leaders who have had to exit such positions in not so happy circumstances.

After the last elections, I used this space to pay my hearty tributes and to celebrate the unusual number of women who had been elected to various leadership positions - a record seven governors, three senators and 26 MPs - a clear indication that with a level playing field, and a conducive environment, women can fight for themselves and easily outmanoeuvre men on matters leadership.

Of course, the heroine of the day was Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza who defied the combined Azimio and Kenya Kwanza waves to win the coveted position as an independent candidate.

I was personally greatly elated because she had proved my long standing conviction that women do not need crutches to help them limp into higher strata of leadership.

Unfortunately, as Cherera mulls over the forces that derailed her train, Governor Mwangaza is fighting tooth and nail to survive the winds that seem determined to put off her light. As things stand, the good bishop needs help from above to cross the vast Red Sea before Pharaoh's troops catch up with her - and they are closing in fast.

The impeachment motion is already before the Senate, on whose hands the fate of her leadership seems to lie.

If the misfortunes of others can be of any comfort to a suffering soul, then Governor Mwangaza might draw solace from the fact that she is not the first woman to face such challenges of leadership so early in office. Just over two months ago, UK Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned after just six weeks in office.

Truss was heavily criticised for her economic agenda, after making decisions that she thought would spur growth. Unfortunately, things turned out otherwise and the budding woman leader had to exit 10 Downing Street in just weeks.

What is interesting is that what is happening on the political scene, could be quietly happening in the corporate sector. In the Women in the Workplace 2022 study, McKinsey reports that an unprecedented numbers of C-Suite women leaders in the US are quitting their jobs.

In what the report termed as the "Great Breakup," the women surveyed cited barriers on their paths that make it harder for them to advance. The women argued that many of them faced micro-aggressions - with many instances of indirect and at times subtle discrimination.

Furthermore, according to the report, what was even more frustrating for women leaders was to have their judgement questioned - a factor that Mwangaza and Liz might readily identify with. The consequence is that many women in top leadership are simply throwing in the towel. The question that begs is whether women leaders are jinxed.

Is there just little or no hope for women leaders, especially in male dominated or highly competitive environments?

The answer is a resounding No! Women are just as gifted and able to provide leadership at all levels. Unfortunately, studies show they have to reckon with some obvious factors such as gender stereotypes, institutional barriers, and personal mindsets that easily undermine their success.

Women mostly start the leadership race with the common expectation that they may not make it. Most institutions also have difficulties promoting women leaders. But the most interesting is that many women are their own enemies when it comes to leadership.

They want to lead like men. But, the Director-General of the United Nations Office in Nairobi, Her Excellency Zainab Hawa Bangura, recently disabused women of this notion at a forum for top women leaders.

She argued that one of the truths and realities that women may have to reckon with is that this is man's world. It is therefore extremely difficult for women to achieve much by brute force. Thus, soft power is perhaps the greatest keys to success for women in leadership.

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