Executive Women in Leadership




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Who should attend

  • Women leaders in mid- to senior-level positions (10+ years of work experience)
  • Women who hold or are interested in seeking board positions
  • Women entrepreneurs and founders
  • Male leaders seeking to better understand gender dynamics in their organizations

About the course

In many organizations, men hold more executive positions and board seats than similarly qualified women. Even organizations that bring on women and men at the same rate still demonstrate a gender imbalance at the highest levels of leadership because the power structures and gender dynamics in place often favor and reward the contributions of men over women. In this environment, even the most experienced and capable women struggle against gender bias and established power dynamics on their way to the top.

In this certificate, you will learn strategies and techniques to skillfully level the playing field as you work to attain higher levels of leadership. You’ll begin with an evaluation of the gender bias and power dynamics present in your organizations and develop strategies to overcome their limiting effects. Next, you will assess and refine the way you present yourself as an executive. Leaders often have to negotiate on behalf of themselves, their teams, and their institutions, so students will explore ways to prepare for the challenges women face in negotiations and adapt their negotiation style to the context of a given situation. Given that strong professional networks are often required to advance careers to the highest level, you will create a plan to fully develop your own networks while navigating the potential traps of gender and power dynamics. Finally, you will peek behind the boardroom door to identify the key competencies needed for board membership and explore the various - and sometimes unlikely - pathways women follow to the boardroom.

Power and Gender Dynamics

Research shows that both women and men equate being a leader with being male. Leadership itself is male gendered. How does that affect women's ability to advance to the highest levels of leadership? How does it impact the aspirations of women aspiring to top levels?

Just look at any of the lists of 50 or 100 top leaders and you can count the number of women on one hand. Do an online search of leadership authors: They are mostly older (and mostly white) men. Both women and men inherently associate leadership power with men. Why is this so?

For centuries, men have held the highest power in all kinds of organizations. This predominance of men as leaders has an impact on our concept of leadership. We associate leadership with stereotypically masculine traits: aggression, decisiveness, willingness to engage in conflict, strength, orientation towards action, and other masculine stereotypes. This remains true even though not all male leaders exhibit such traits. What we can say with certainty is that our mental map of leadership for many years has been dominated by white male role models. This gendering of leadership is true even though when researchers study the key aspects of leadership, there are no gender differences in effectiveness.

In this course, co-authored by Cornell University’s Deborah Streeter and Susan S. Fleming, students will assess their own organizations to determine the gender status and power dynamics present. They will use tactics to reduce gender bias in themselves and in the organization. They will identify strategies used to influence the workplace culture to be one of greater parity and use practical strategies to bring forward the contributions of both women and men in group settings. Leadership efforts are also personal: students will create an action plan for themselves, choosing among the recommended strategies to find those most appropriate for their specific context to enhance their own status and power.

Developing Executive Presence for Women Leaders

The concept of “authentic leadership” has become very popular in recent times. In addition, much has been written about executive presence and how to cultivate it in yourself. Both of these things are affiliated with rising to the top.

There is an inherent dilemma for women trying to apply these concepts. Everyone expects that to move up in leadership they will have to display the “right” professional identity and work style – ones that “fit” with expectations.

But what is right and fits is heavily influenced by the majority culture of the organization, which in most cases has been established by men (mostly white, mostly older). So on the one hand, the professional identity needed to succeed includes behaviors more prominent in male culture. On the other hand when women go too far in exhibiting those behaviors, they get pushback. As a result, in certain very traditional masculinized settings, women learn to alter, repress, or hide some of the characteristics of their identities (being a mom, caregiver, acting communally). In essence, some women in certain contexts find they have to restrain their personal style in order to fit in.

In this course, designed for women in leadership positions, learners will examine strategies for incorporating being self-aware and genuine without suppressing their unique personal style.

Gender Bias and Negotiation Strategies

Research indicates that women - even high-ranking women in leadership positions - face a fundamental obstacle when negotiating: women come to the negotiation table with lower perceived status and less power than men. Women must tread carefully in attempting to level the playing field, though, because negotiating with a stereotypically “male” style could result in social consequences that negatively affect the outcome of the negotiation. The burden is on women, therefore, to skillfully adapt their negotiation style to suit the styles of other negotiators and the context of the situation.

As women in leadership roles ascend the ranks of their organizations, they face increased responsibilities to negotiate successfully for their teams and institutions as well as themselves. This course, designed specifically for women in leadership by Deborah Streeter, the Bruce F. Failing, Sr., Professor of Personal Enterprise at Cornell, challenges learners to evaluate their negotiation style through the lenses of gender and power and use their emotional intelligence to tailor their style to any situation. Learners will explore advanced negotiation techniques that help women capitalize on their strengths and avoid triggering the double bind in negotiations.

The Network Effect

Leaders often ascribe different causes to their success in ascending to senior positions in their companies. Research shows that women are likely to point to the merit of their own work as the reason for promotion, whereas men tend to attribute upward mobility to their skill forging strategic relationships. In reality, strong professional networks - and the ability to leverage them to meet individual goals - are a crucial component of career advancement regardless of talent. Unfortunately, many potential women leaders undervalue or underutilize this critical tool.

In this course, designed specifically for women in leadership by Deborah Streeter, the Bruce F. Failing, Sr., Professor of Personal Enterprise at Cornell, you will deconstruct your own professional network and how it is working - or not working - for you. By defining key roles and relationships, you will identify and address areas in your network that can be strengthened. This course will also provide you the tools to overcome common challenges to developing and maintaining networks that women face due to harassment or the double bind.

Decoding the Gender Gap in Board Membership

Men overwhelmingly outnumber women on public boards of directors, but times are changing and more boards than ever are actively seeking qualified women to help steer their companies. For interested women, the challenge is that the typical path to board membership—through the C-Suite—is optimized for the male executives who often land senior leadership roles.

This course, designed specifically for women with leadership experience by Deborah Streeter, the Bruce F. Failing, Sr., Professor of Personal Enterprise at Cornell, and Susan S. Fleming, a senior lecturer at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, will demystify the journey to board membership for women and break down the responsibilities and opportunities that women can expect once on a board. In this course, you will prepare yourself for board membership by assessing your personal competencies and potential barriers to joining a board. You will write your own value proposition for what you could bring to a board and then identify potential boards and make a plan to approach them. You will also analyze how, as a woman, you can make a positive impact on a board, all while successfully navigating the double bind.

Key course takeaways

  • Assess your organization to determine the gender status and power dynamics present
  • Create an action plan to enhance your own status and power within your the organization and individually
  • Refine your executive presence so that you can improve your interactions with people at higher power levels
  • Improve your approach to negotiations and adapt your style to the context and dynamics of a situation
  • Develop a strong professional network and overcome key barriers you face
  • Assess your core competencies compared to those required for board membership and make a plan to fill any gaps


Deborah Streeter

Deborah Streeter is the Bruce F. Failing, Sr. Professor of Personal Enterprise and Small Business Management at the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. Entrepreneurship and small business management are the focus of Dr. Streeter’s teaching, research, and outreach activiti...

Susan Fleming

From 2010 to 2018, Dr. Susan S. Fleming was a Senior Lecturer at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. Currently, she is an executive educator and frequent speaker on women in leadership and entrepreneurship, a corporate director, an active angel investor and a mom. Fleming began her career...

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Executive Women in Leadership at eCornell

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Coursalytics is an independent platform to find, compare, and book executive courses. Coursalytics is not endorsed by, sponsored by, or otherwise affiliated with any business school or university.

Full disclaimer.

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