Not Just 'Adding Women in': Women Re-making Leadership

Amanda Sinclair


Why is it that so much of women’s contribution to public life has not been recognised as leadership? In this chapter, I look at the construct of leadership itself, its history and recent popularity. Leadership has, in most cultures including Australia, been defined as something that men do. A performance of leadership and heroic masculinity are intertwined. Further, when women emulate male behaviours (even when they appear to do so successfully), they are not judged as leaders. This can and has created profound problems for leading women in Australia. Highly visible and effective women in public life have been designated as something other than leader, such as ‘community activist’ or ‘pioneer’. Here I propose a feminist (re-) conceptualisation of leadership that goes beyond women performing against pre-existing criteria. I argue that alongside our efforts to have women recognised as leaders, we need to use our findings to interrogate and contest received wisdom about leadership. Our interest in Australian women’s leadership should change understandings of what is recognised as leadership: not just ‘adding women in’ but shifting public images and imagination about what good leadership is.


leadership theory, women, gender, power, masculinities, feminism

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