May 25th, 2023

Patriarchy, Productivity and Perfectionism

How Patriarchy Has Molded Productivity, Perfectionism and Its Effect on Women in Leadership

Our predominantly patriarchal society has molded the concept of productivity, affecting the need for perfectionism and having a significant impact in women’s lives. This patriarchal culture deeply ingrained in our society has particularly impacted women's personal and professional growth, limiting leadership development and even affecting their beliefs and behaviors. 

Patriarchy is a social system that’s been present in many societies throughout history. It is a system in which men hold primary power and authority in society, while women are relegated to support roles. 

The profound impact patriarchy has had on women is particularly noticeable in the workplace. It’s no secret women have been subjected to systemic issues such as unequal pay, sexual harassment, exclusion from leadership roles, and even violence. These issues are amplified for women of color and those with intersecting oppressions.

One concept that takes an indepth look at patriarchy’s impact on women is the introduction of Patriarchy Stress Disorder.

This PSD concept was introduced by Dr. Valerie Rein, a psychologist and author. According to Dr. Rein, PSD is a form of trauma that results from the experience of living in a society where women are oppressed and marginalized. This is a result of intergenerational trauma passed down from all the generations of women who’ve  been oppressed by patriarchal systems over the years. 

PSD is characterized by a range of symptoms, including anxiety, depression, feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and a sense of powerlessness. Women who experience PSD may also struggle with relationships, intimacy, and sexuality, as well as with feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blame.

I’m only introducing this concept to show the profound impact of this societal system. I plan to cover more on this concept in a future blog. For now we’ll  explore the impact of patriarchy on productivity and perfectionism and the combined effect it had on the success of women in leadership roles.

Patriarchy and the Culture of Productivity

Modern productivity is deeply rooted in patriarchal values and attitudes.

The idea of productivity is linked to the belief that individuals should be able to achieve a great deal in a short amount of time without any support from others. In a patriarchal society, individualism is valued above all else, people are encouraged to pursue their own goals and ambitions without considering the needs of others.

Women are expected to be productive in the same way that men are, but they face additional challenges. Whether that’s being the predominant caregiver in the family, being the only breadwinner as a single woman who makes significantly less, or expected to look and behave certain ways regardless of career and/or age. Women may also face gender-based discrimination in the workplace, causing stress and trauma that limits the ability to be productive.

Perfectionism and Patriarchy

Another value closely linked to patriarchal societies is perfectionism and yet, another significant area where patriarchy plays a role in women's lives.

Patriarchal societies often believe that men are inherently better than women and instill in women the belief that they must be perfect all the time. This often results in behaviors such as holding back, not speaking up even when they have the best solution as well as suppression of emotions for fear of not being respected. 

Recognizing and breaking free from these harmful patterns is crucial for personal growth, professional development and can help women support each other in more productive ways. 

Women in Leadership and Patriarchy

Where to start!? We know women have conquered a surmountable amount of challenges in leadership related to the patriarchal nature of our society. 

My goal for this section is to move past the obvious and place emphasis on leadership styles and marginalized groups. 

Under patriarchal values, women in leadership roles may be expected to be more nurturing and caring while men are expected to be assertive and competitive. This often puts women in a double bind as they’re expected to be both nurturing and assertive, yet penalized if they are too much of one or the other. 

What about the role of intersectionality when it comes to women in leadership?

Women who belong to other marginalized groups face additional challenges that intensify the impact of patriarchy. Women of color and LGBTQ+ women face discrimination based on both gender and identity. Another reason why it’s critical that women as a whole work together to help dismantle patriarchy at least in the workplace. 

How do we move beyond patriarchy? 

As you can see, patriarchy is a deeply ingrained societal system, dismantling it is a complex, multifaceted and ongoing process. There’s no single magical solution to this intergenerational issue, rather multiple approaches to produce systemic and organizational transformation need to be not only widely adopted, but become the norm. 

A few of these strategies include:

  • Promoting Gender Diversity in Leadership Roles
  • Racial and gender equity
  • Challenging Gender Stereotypes
  • Providing Training and Education
  • Creating Male Allies
  • Addressing Intersectionality, Belonging and the concept of Othering 

Aside from moving away from a highly patriarchal society that no longer serves the business or leadership landscape of today,  gender equality in the workplace comes with undeniable benefits.

Here’s just a few ways the workplace benefits: 

  • Research has shown that gender diversity in leadership leads to increased innovation and creativity. Improved Performance and Productivity
  • Gender equity also leads to improved performance and productivity in the workplace. When all employees feel valued, supported and included, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work.
  • Creating a workplace that is inclusive and equitable also leads to better employee retention.
  • Promoting gender diversity in the workplace leads to increased access to talent with the ability to tap into a wider pool of talent and skills.

Implementing leadership and executive coaching programs can help create inclusive, equitable and diverse work environments that promote growth and development for all employees. The result ~ a mindfully productive environment where high-performance teams can thrive. 

Leadership coaching in particular can help women recognize and break free from the negative effects of patriarchy. Working with an executive coach can give women the tools to navigate challenging situations, overcome imposter syndrome and self-doubt, giving them more confidence in their leadership roles as well as their personal lives.

We know our predominantly patriarchal society has molded the concept of productivity, the need for perfectionism and it’s had a significant impact in women’s lives, particularly in the workplace. 

We know that deconstructing patriarchy and its system of oppression in the workplace and society will remain a multifaceted approach that in no doubt will take time and commitment. 

How do we ensure we continue to implement the complex and ongoing processes needed to help society break away from the ingrained patriarchy patterns? 

The first step is a collective awareness of the issue. I’m hopeful we are well underway in this big step from both sides.

Another big step is for women to recognize these patterns that stem from intergenerational and internalized oppression. By recognizing it, women can support each other in breaking free from patriarchal perfectionism. Enlisting the guidance of a leadership coach and CEO strategist can have a tremendous impact on the speed at which women overcome these patterns and begin to master confidence with ease. 

Lastly, promoting gender diversity and equity in leadership roles, challenging gender stereotypes, providing training and education, creating male allies and addressing intersectionality will create a more equitable and inclusive workplace for any organization. 

Ready to take your leadership skills to new heights? Want to lead from a best-case scenario, build high-performance teams and harness the power of self-mastery?

Learn how Akanke Adefunmi Leadership & Self-Mastery Coaching can help. 

Get started today with this Free Report. 

About the author

I’m an executive and leadership Certified Coach, CEO Development Strategist and above all I’m your biggest champion. If you are committed to becoming the confident, innovative, compassionate leader of the future, my mission is to help you every step of the way there.