Multicultural Perspectives in Leadership

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photo credit: NEPDEC

Multicultural Perspectives in Leadership

By Mary Lou de Leon Siantz

 

The world needs women with multicultural perspectives prepared to move into leadership roles in academe, industry, STEM, health sciences, and government around the globe. Developing women leaders has been problematic for many reasons despite the fact that women are more present in the workforce than at any time in history.  The rapidly changing demographics that have increased the cultural and racial diversity of the U.S. including the feminization of global migration, are challenging leadership to better reflect the values and worldviews of a multicultural society. 

Globalization is increasingly challenging academic and organizational leadership in all sectors to become culturally nimble and adapt, to fully represent the human race’s full rainbow and gender, and not just one sector. Archaic traditions continue to challenge the stereotypes of women, especially women of color, negating the strengths they bring to their professional roles, upholding stereotypic beliefs, forcing them to abandon cultural ideals with preconceived notions that we cannot be effective leaders because of cultural lenses that are thought to promote a misguided leadership mentality which is assumed to lack a strategic vision, transformative leadership and drive for results.   

For a woman of color traditionally accepted masculine and feminine traits further stereotype their leadership potential.  We are perceived to work from a care and relationship-oriented perspective that is inconsistent with a traditional view of leadership that is based on male perspectives thought to be more successful because of its decisive, authoritative, and direct approach.  Challenging these assumptions are a number of transformative events that are establishing the need for multicultural perspectives in leadership essential to success in the 21st Century (Juana Bordas, 2012). 

First, the 2010 Census indicates that by 2050 people of color will be the majority and account for over 50% of the U.S. population. Women of color are increasingly being elected into office because of their ability to use their cultural values and build inclusivity not only for those they will represent but for all Americans.

With one out of five school-age children currently from a multicultural background in the U.S., the majority of Americans will be non-white in the next ten years. The interdependence of the world community is creating a need for multicultural leadership perspectives that will inspire its leaders to build visions from very distinct cultures, nationalities, and ethnic groups.

Finally, technology has not only flattened communication globally but has made communication possible across and within all sectors.  The pipeline begins in academic settings where an increasing number of girls are now graduating and are poised to become our next generation of leaders integrating their multicultural perspectives. 

Those currently in power must recognize the opportunity to begin to reflect on their legacy. They should embrace mentoring the next generation, welcome a global perspective and break the bonds of gender and color in leadership roles.

Women, especially women of color, will no longer be punished for their multicultural perspectives but rewarded for their leadership potential.  To quote Paulo Freire, “Looking at the past must only be a means of understanding more clearly what and who they are so that they can more wisely build the future.”

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