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Gender and Power (Official and Unofficial)

Gender and Power (Official and Unofficial)

Author: Julie Tietz

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand that cultures tend to ascribe power roles differently to men and women

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Hi. I'm Julie Tietz. And welcome to Conflict Resolution, Putting the Pieces Together. Today, we're going to talk about gender and power and how cultures ascribe power roles differently to men and women.

We're going to talk about two types of power today, official and unofficial. If a person in a culture holds official power, that means that they have decision making and acting authority in major roles of governing our culture. And these could also be executive roles that involve leadership or control in general. And these roles are formally recognized by our culture.

An individual that holds unofficial power would be considered less important and their decision making or authority is not as important as a person that would have official power. And they also are considered to be support people or have support roles for those individuals that hold official power.

Unofficial power also can manifest as created by people's sense of loyalty or affection to an individual. And so in unofficial power, we have individuals that are considered less important or their power is considered less important to those in the official power holders. And in most cultures, males hold the official power, whereas females hold the unofficial power.

When we are talking about our gender roles and power, it's important to know that we self-reinforce our roles. So we take on our gender-assigned power roles. And unless we challenge these roles, we will go along with our either official or unofficial power roles, based upon our gender.

And sometimes we have to challenge our gender roles or power in our gender roles to obtain success. And this, at times, can be considered gender inappropriate for our specific culture and can often lead to negative perceptions of that individual that is going outside of that gender norm.

Let's take, for example, a female CEO. The executive position within a company is considered to be an official power role. And official power roles tend to be more driven or accepted or taken on by men. In this role as a CEO or executive of a company, this woman will take upon leadership and authority and responsibility.

She is the person that has the ability and authority to make all of these decisions. And because she is going outside of the perceived appropriate power roles for her gender as a female, she risks having negative perceptions about her or assumptions.

And maybe individuals will think that she really can't take on these responsibilities, because she is a female. And they may not give her as much respect as they would a man in that same role. Or they may think that she doesn't fit in there. So these are some risks that individuals take in order to obtain success outside of their prescribed gender roles and power.

The majority of cultures ascribe men or males to have official power so those more leadership roles and women to have those unofficial power roles. So they're deemed as less important in their decision making abilities and authority. This is very true across most cultures

But we have to be aware that it's a broad and general rule. And there have been, or has been, some change to include gender neutral power. But we have to be aware of that cultural change is slow. And so for the most part, we still ascribe official power to men and unofficial power to women.

Let's look at our key points before we go on gender and power. Official power includes decision making and acting authority in major roles governing a culture. And these are often ascribed to men. These roles could include being executive or across other formally recognized leadership roles and responsibilities, whereas unofficial power is deemed less important by the culture in their acting authority and decision making skills and are usually considered to be a support to those official power holders.

When we acts outside of our gender power roles, we are considered to have gender inappropriate behavior. So for example, our female CEO. And when we do so, we risk having negative perceptions and assumptions about us. And although there has been change to include gender neutral power, within both males and females, cultural change is slow, in terms of gender and power. Here your key terms before we go. Feel free to pause and look at them closer. Thank you so much for taking the time out and I can't wait to catch you again next time.

Terms to Know
Cultural Gender Appropriateness

Behavior considered “right, proper, or correct” for a member of a given gender within his or her culture.

Gender-Inappropriate Behavior

Behavior displaying traits or assuming roles considered "not normal or proper" for one's gender.

Official Power

Decision-making and acting authority in the major roles governing a culture, or executive roles involving leadership or control in general.

Unofficial Power

Decision-making and acting authority positions considered "less important" by the culture and providing support to official power holders.