It’s Harder for Women
“The path to the top is harder for women than men,” Ruth Malloy.
Men can be men but women must be both.
Hay Group has identified six leadership styles. I’ve circled stereotypical male styles in blue and female in pink.
Women using traditional masculine styles without including feminine styles are labeled bitches. Men lacking stereotypical feminine styles, on the other hand, are considered strong leaders.
Organizations expect greater versatility
and broader skill-sets from female leaders.
High ranking female executives climb higher barriers to get to the top. The result, “Top ranking women tend to be more proficient than their male counterparts in the skills required to lead in more global, diverse and networked organizations.” (Full article)
- Conflict management.
- Influence – achieving results without direct line authority.
One more step:
This topic feels awkward because some live in a bizzaro world where they believe women and men are the same. It’s disappointing when equality means sameness. Ten dimes and four quarters are the same and different.
If women and men are the same, gender diversity is irrelevant.
- What challenges do women face when they aspire to executive leadership?
- Have you been on a leadership team that integrated women? What changes did you observe?
- I’ve heard women say they’d rather work for a male boss. What’s up with that?
This post is the result of an interview with Ruth Malloy, Ph.D., the global managing director leadership and talent at Hay Group.
This is only the tip of the iceberg.
Men with drive are considered ambitious.
Women with drive are considered cut throat.
Men who care about staff are applauded, even exalted.
Women are expected to care about staff but even when they do, may be considered by many to be weak or phony.
Men who exhibit tantrums are considered eccentric, but are forgiven.
Women who show emotion are weak or unstable.
Males who are demanding are considered strong.
Women who require excellence are bitches.
In our last political election a popular t-shirt I saw men wearing all over America proclaimed “Bros before Hos”
Talk about slurring two populations with three words. It sickened me.
But notice where females were ranked.
Great seeing you back and thanks for an articulate, potent comment.
You have my best,
One challenge is trying to be taken seriously. When you are a feminine woman and not the “bitch” as you’ve said, people don’t expect you to be so visionary and pacesetting.
I’d say partially the reason women who say they’d like to work for a man over a woman is because there is less workplace and interpersonal drama associated with a male boss. Men are usually so “present” in nature, and women “carry things” in to work with them. Women are typically emotional (here and there; up and down). Men usually keep their composure in any given situation.
I would like to note that I am a woman and these are my feelings according to my life experiences. 🙂
Always great to see that you’ve dropped in.
My wife and I joke that women give men too much credit. We are way more simple than you think. A woman sees a guy mowing the lawn and wonders what he’s thinking about. The guy mowing the lawn in thinking about mowing the lawn! (its dangerous to speak stereo-typically but this whole post is stereotypical)
Thanks for sharing.
There’s more to mowing a lawn!!!???
“If women and men are the same, gender diversity is irrelevant.”
Good Morning Dan,
In answer to your question: “I’ve heard women say they’d rather work for a male boss. What’s up with that?”
I have worked in all female organizations on many occasions. And sometimes, just sometimes, there’s too much PMS in the room. 😉 I also agree that equality does not = same.
Appreciate your posts as always. Good to see you are mending! Still in my thoughts and prayers.
Great having you drop in today. I appreciate your honest candor.
Thank you for your well wishes.
I’ll tackle the third question. I’m a woman in my mid-30s, and in general I have been more comfortable working for a male boss than a female boss. I think the reason for this IN MY EXPERIENCE is that I am more comfortable with men in authority than with women in authority. This goes back to my family of origin and was reinforced by an education system that is dominated by females in authority. My experience is that men are more “hands off” with regard to their authority. They are more likely to delegate, less likely to micromanage and be controlling. They do what they are good at and get someone else to do what they are not good at.
Women, in my experience, tend to be less inclined to delegate, seem more inclined to control, micromanage, and have a do-it-all, “if you want something done right you have to do it yourself” attitude. And the idea that women have to be all things to all people in order to break through the glass ceiling actually reinforces this tendency in women. We have more to “prove,” yet this need to prove ourselves is actually our downfall as leaders and managers.
This is ironic, because the stereotype says that females are cooperative while males are competitive. This has not been my experience in the professional world, at least not within a team structure.
With this said, my best boss was a woman. She was good at what she did. She had a good mentor within the company where we worked (who eventually moved on and whose position she assumed). She trusted her department heads to do their best, and while she was not “hands off,” she allowed teams to come up with their own solutions, with her participation in the process. She was everything a good mother is: she would let you cry on her shoulder if you were in need of nurturing, yet she demanded that we do our best and held us accountable when expectations were not met.
Your comment extends and adds value to this conversation. I’m thankful you shared your experiences. I’m sure we’ll all take them as YOUR experiences.
I love how your story both reinforces and breaks stereotypes. Perhaps thats why stereotypes are inadequate.
You have my best,
The glass ceiling is often impermeable when it comes to gender issues. Sure women can rise, in some select sectors near the top and in very few instances with unbelievable focus, drive and the attributes you identified, a woman has risen to the top. When that does occur, the clock begins ticking on those who will bring up the gender issue, if there is a misstep.
Need look no farther than the House or Senate to see the gender bias thrives.
So, let’s see…sex, check… politics, check…. that just leaves religion Dan… 😉
BTW-cracked me up with the blue and pink circles Dan…
It took all my courage to bring this topic to the front burner. First, because I’m a guy and second because it can be volatile. My second concern hasn’t become an issue, thankfully. I’ll save my religious writing for other channels. 🙂
Glad you caught the pink and blue thing. This morning, I went over this post with my wife and mentioned the color scheme. We both laughed. It was done tongue in cheek, of course.
Always a pleasure,
“It’s disappointing when equality means sameness.”
Absolutely. I would love to shift the conversation from “gender equality” to “gender fairness” – there is a huge difference between what is equal and what is fair.
As far as aspiring to executive leadership, how about this challenge: motherhood: As a mom of two, I have gotten guilt from stay-at-home moms about working, from (male and/or single women) co-workers about having to leave for a sick kid or field trip. Dads who go to kids events during the work day are “sweet” and “such good dads”. It is frustrating to carry around guilt for people always thinking you are not “all there” for whatever they perceive you should be. And it is equally crippling to carry my own guilt for worrying about kids at work and work when I am with kids.
Your comment stirs the pot more deeply than I could. The devaluation of motherhood and fatherhood for that matter is tragic.
My wife chose to stay home with our three children, went back to school when they were in their teens, earned a second degree, passed the CPA exam and now works for herself. Hats off to the finest person I know!
Before she went to work for herself, she worked for one of the largest accounting firms in the mid-Atlantic states. Sadly, she saw the double standard many women endure every day.
Thank you for extending the conversation.
Forty years ago, my mother was a leader in the women’s movement in Wisconsin. She and her colleagues helped bring about major changes in the law to allow women to inherit property, obtain credit, and be hired for jobs that were typically seen as male jobs. They worked hard with the state to get them to accept bids from women-owned companies. They made great strides in opening up non-traditional careers for women. I sing a song of praise and gratitude for them.
Twenty-five years ago, I was ordained into the ministry of the United Church of Christ, certainly a non-traditional career for a woman. In my first parish, I was not only the first woman they’d had as an installed pastor (they’d had a woman interim before me), but I was the first woman called as pastor in that entire area of our denomination. I was at the table with lots of “old boys” when I met with my fellow clergy. It was not an environment in which I felt comfortable admitting that I was struggling.
The situation is different in many ways now. We have come a long way from the 1970s when classified ads still had separate sections for “Job Opportunity: Male” and “Job Opportunity: Female.” There is still ground to cover.
As you say, the glass ceiling is still firmly in place, particularly in places of top-level leadership. All of the comments people have made still apply: aggressive women are “ballbusters,” assertive women are “bitchy,” nurturing women are “soft,” non-nurturing women are “abrasive.” Add to that a culture that is so very slow to move away from patriarchal models that see men as the natural heirs to positions of power, and you’ve got a perfect storm.
Women are “mommy-tracked” while men are rarely “daddy-tracked.” Child care is still seen as primarily belonging to women, so the decision of child or career, which is rarely an issue for men, still becomes a huge life choice for women. You hear it in the way people ask women, “Does your husband help with the kids?” It’s rarely phrased, “Are you and your husband pretty equivalently co-parenting?” (Ok, no one actually talks like that, but you know what I mean.)
Another sad reality is that women often are each other’s worst enemies. I don’t know whether it’s competition for the attention of someone in power, often male, or what it is. But instead of being supportive to one another, there’s often an environment of sniping, criticism, and cattiness, particularly for those who show the potential to rise in the structure of the organization.
You are right in saying that men and women do operate differently in many cases. However, not all women always display typically feminine-energy styles and not all men always display typically masculine-energy styles. When it’s expected that they will, they often try to be something they aren’t. Then they start showing up as inauthentic, and that’s probably what causes more problems in their leadership, male or female, than anything else.
And once again, my comment is WAY longer than your blog post! Alas!
You left us a colorful comment!
I frequently hear that the brevity of my posts give readers time to read comments. You’ve made the conversation richer.
PS as I said to Doc, I’m leaving the religious side of these conversations to other channels. Having said that, I’m thankful you shared your story.
As a strong woman who management style has on more than one occasion been described as “manipulative bitch”, let me see if I can answer some of these questions. Most business leaders in my city are still men and many in their 50s and 60s. I spent the first 10 years of my career with these same men referring to me as a girl. I think it is difficult to take seriously as a leader and a business advisor someone you think of as a girl. I don’t believe the men at the time had to wait until their 30s to be taken seriously.
Did you know that a man will nod during a conversation to show he agrees but a woman will nod to show she understands even if she doesn’t agree? Found that out the hard way when decisions were made because I nodded during conversations to show I was following along and every other man at the table assumed I agreed.
Girls play is designed around cooperation. Play of young boys is often designed around ideas of confrontation. Girls are encouraged to show emotion but boys to stifle it. Because women were often encouraged to avoid confrontation they tend to want to please. Men were taught to not show emotions so when confrontations occur men are often better at no showing the hurt emotions. Eventually both these groups, men who stifle emotion and women who are avoiding confrontation but experiencing the emotions are going to blow and probably do so inappropriately. The difference is that we have been taught that it is more appropriate for men to blow up this way than women.
Which is a long way of saying we were all trained to recognize behaviors as male and female. We are also more comfortable when behaviors are exhibited by the gender we identify them with. Yesterday I was counseling an employee who cried. I was uncomfortable. Not because of crying but because the employee was male. I would not have been uncomfortable if during the same conversation with a woman she had cried. This is sometimes why women say they want to work with a man. Because they are more comfortable with some behaviors if they come from a man.
What a great comment. You prove the point that the best part of the LF blog is the comments.
Love the “girl” story you added and the candor of your last paragraph. Well said.
Best to you,
I enjoy balance. I think it takes both men and women to make a good team. If you put the one’s validity as a leader over the other, it should be because that person has the qualities required for leadership in that organization. Also, we should recognize that different organizations, require different types of leaders. Each org has its own culture and within that culture, a certain “type” of leader is expected and welcomed. Whatever type that is, people with those qualities should be retained…in a perfect world. 🙂
During my conversation with Ruth Malloy, she rightly indicated the importance of new skill sets for leaders of global companies. Skill sets that many women are better at than many men. She validates your idea that balance is useful and context is central.
In a perfect world, I’m not sure we’d be having this conversation 🙂
I never thought I live to see the day someone would write this! <3
I will re read this article and cherish it. I was the first female student at the Naval Academy. That is many years ago. As the years went by I got more and more convinced that equal position is not a goal but equal worth. Nighter do equality means sameness. Women and men are different – thank God – and I never want to be a second rate man – but a first rate women. In the military I was a second rate man. Living in mens barracks, walking in mens clothes, using mens showers, wearing mens boots and back sacks and so on. It is actually unworthy – unless we of course where a poor country which we are not. We are more worth than that. Take us seriously – first and foremost we have to take our self more seriously. 🙂 I just had to say this.
A business, a community a society needs the female force to be prudent and wholesome.
Thank you so much Dan – once more you have my gratitude!
You honor us with your comment. Hats off to you!
Your comment carries real punch. Blending shouldn’t be the goal. Maximizing individual strengths should.
We haven’t hit on blending women and men in certain sporting fields. But, in my opinion, blending usually degrades everyone. I guess I’m a bit off topic….
Thank you for sharing your story.
Well said. Now I have a question about the future since everyone has tackled the present so very well.
I recently attended a seminar about mentoring Millennials. The speaker, a Millennial herself, was the person in charge of taking in intern applications, processing them, and facilitating the selection and placement of those individuals. She commented that what corporate workplace is seeing is that 60-80% (?) of the influx of new employees are Millennial women. The men are disappearing in the corporate work place at that level.
So, imagine the future where the baby boomer and GenX guys are hogging all the leadership roles and the glass ceiling is still firmly in place preventing women becoming leaders and role models. What’s going to happen when suddenly 90% of men are all at the top and they find themselves having to lead a corporation of women?
I can’t help thinking about all those women with no role models to prepare them for leadership. There is so much that is learned from example and instruction.
Yes, role modell are wanted! But not many are willing to pay the price. And there is a price. To get women role modell it has to be done on womens terms.
We want children, we get children and we must be allowed to be mothers in this way. Then there comes a time when women can turn their attention outward again. I am not talking for all – of course! But for many. I will be very carefull here as I know that not only are women different but our awareness also change along the way and our goals change – Just like mens (!) In my country we work until we are approx. 65 years and often much longer. Work must be seen in a life time perspective.
My best advise it not to be so conform. I think our biggest obstacle is our fixed way of choosing people who are like us. I remember a comic strip many years ago. A man was sitting behind a desk – obviously intervjuing a preson for a job. The person looked like identical twins – and the guy behind the desk say: “you are just the kind of guy we need around here”. The again I think of the head of my work he resently said that his best job ever, where he learned the most, and had best results was a place where they deliberately had – handpicked – people that was very very different.
Think new. New working hours, maternity leave and develope a new lifetime competance plan – a reforms – perhaps even a paradigm shift 🙂 is needed.
Wow, another facet to a stimulating conversation. Great question about mentoring.
I see the value of top level women mentoring emerging female leaders. A woman to woman perspective is needed because, as Ruth Malloy said, Women fought an uphill battle to achieve their success.
You introduce a tantalizing topic.
Hi Dan, This is a nice summary to a complex subject and I appreciate your tackling it. The Hay findings are consistent with other recent studies (e.g. Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman Harvard Business Review: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/03/a_study_in_leadership_women_do.html )eir discussion. One of the the points they make is that when you dig into the data, women and men are equally visionary. The reason men scored higher is because they are disproportionately represented at the top of the organization. But when you analyze the data for only senior level executives, women and men score equally on visionary qualities.
Neuroscience studies support that brains of women and men are actually hard-wired differently, most likely going back to our hunter-gatherer roots, where men needed to be fierce and independent and act quickly, and women needed to create communities and develop relationships in order to work together effectively back in the camps. However, we’ve also learned from recent studies that our hard-wiring can be over-riddern. An interesting book Buddah’s Brain by Rick Hanson looks at how meditation can change our brain’s natural tendencies. MRI studies of long-term meditators show their neural pathways have actually changed.
I prefer to think these differences as qualities rather than assigning them to gender, as not all men are directive and not all women are participative. I believe that to be successful leadership must adopt a “both/and” mentality and embrace the richness that is missing.” Men and women alike are capable of exhibiting all of these qualities and they are essential for the success of our organizations, be they corporate, religious or political.
It’s always a pleasure when you stop in. Thanks for sharing the link to Zenger and Folkman’s article. It was useful to me and I’m sure it will be to LF readers.
Your comment reminds me that we usually get further with “and” than we do with “or.”
You have my best,
You’ve got some great responses already, Dan, but I’ll throw in my two cents on the topic of preferring working for a male boss. In my experience, I have found that, for whatever reason, men are more likely to assign a task and let me do my job, allowing me the freedom and flexibility as to how I get the desired results. When I’ve had a female boss, she wanted her two cents as to method to matter as much as her stated expectation of outcome. In other words, it was harder for her to delegate the task and trust my abilities.
I also think that, because it’s so hard to climb the management ladder, female management can see strong female leaders in the team as potentially threatening. So, if the environment already has a scarcity of women in leadership, the new female leader can be seen as competition rather than an ally or asset.
It’s interesting that you bring up delegating. You aren’t the first. I wonder if any research has been done on gender orientations toward delegation?
Thanks for adding your perspective to the conversation.
Thanks for your openness to explore the tough topics, Dan. I’m an advocate for the advancement of women in business, and I have my biases, certainly, but I’ve seen and lived the truth of the idea that right now, success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. In other words, we’re not the same at all, and we’re not perceived the same, or expected to perform in the same way, or praised, supported and promoted for the same behaviors. The challenge comes when women are judged harshly and critically for sound business behavior that their male colleagues would be applauded for (because in women this behavior is viewed as too agressive, pushy, bitchy, etc.). This is the way it is today, but not forever. Change will come, is coming. Rigid gender stereotypes will give way to the opportunity for each of us to live and lead in a more authentic, real and meaningful way. Conversations and explorations like these will help. I appreciate your great food for thought, as always!
Thanks for the good word and for adding your thoughts to this conversation.
I think we are at the place that perception still trumps reality. In other words, we may perceive a male leader as better than a female leader when in reality our perception is wrong. We still give the benefit of the doubt to men while making it more difficult for women.
Knowing we may not perceive things as they are represents a new beginning.
You have my best,
Thanks to you all.
This discussion go in more directions. That is good.
I love it when Kathy Caprino say: Change will come, is coming. Rigid gender stereotypes will give way to the opportunity for each of us to live and lead in a more authentic, real and meaningful way.
What puzzle me though is that we do not see the fact that women are excellent leaders already – have always been!
My role model was my mother! She was an excellent leader. She had both male and female qualities and she delegated, cheered, saw the big picture, saw us individually, made us go the extra mile. She encouraged us to be our authentic self.
Of course but mothers are different you might say. Yes, they are and that is exactly my point. Women are leaders already! We lead all the time but it is not regarded as leadership – for some reason! It is a mystery to me why this is not seen.
There is a domestic and a public sphere. Women lead but we do not get into the well paid, prestigious public positions. For example, the positions where the conditions for our working life is set. Men dominate in these positions and in high positions in the public arena and at the same time they have a potent (!) role in the domestic arena. For women the picture is different. Women still take the majority of the house work. Low salary 🙂 low prestige. If I broaden the view and look at this from a global perspective the picture gets much worse. I will not go there now. I hope however that others see my point. i am plunging deep into the subject now and I may loose the reader along the way. 🙂
Bottom line: Why can’t we have equal worth – equality is not sameness as I think Dan wants to indicate.- it is same worth – all over the place! SYNERGi! Two plus two equals more than four when men and women work together and appreciate the differences.
It seems to me that the styles “suited” for women are more powerful in managing a successful workforce. Just my $0.02.
Your comment is especially relevant to global organizations. I’m still in the camp that we should leverage everyone’s strengths regardless of gender. I’m sure you are too.
Thanks for stopping in,
Thanks for the insightful post.
“» I’ve heard women say they’d rather work for a male boss. What’s up with that?”
The above question is rather intriguing. I will try to give my analysis. I think that I know what’s behind it. Though, I have to articulate my intuition.
I look forward to your insights.
We boomer women grew up with the same stereotypes that our brothers did and were not prejudice-proof for being girls. We knew boys grew up to be doctors and girls grew up to be nurses. A woman doctor or woman manager were as unthinkable as a woman daddy. I learned to hate prejudice against women but even so I still find it hiding in my own thoughts. Childhood prejudices are tenacious.
WRT emotional women: I’ve listened to the men at work jousting verbally before a meeting is called to order. The talk sounds typically forceful and masculine. If I imagine, though, that they’re women saying the same things in the same tones an octave higher, they sound completely different. The negative stereotypes about women working together – bitchy, catty, PMSey – are right there in front of me. Some differences between men and women are real – I agree with you there – but some are still in our heads.
I had to jump over all the road blocks by starting my own companies. Why waste time?
women and men ever and never be same, they have their own responsibility.(www.china-mining-equipment.com)
The leadership styles for male and females are very insightful. It is true that both genders have their specific characteristics so it would not be fair to measure them on same scale. Historically and traditionally female have higher responsibility then men. They need to manage household activities and kids first then to manage professional life. So, when women aspire to executive leadership role, men should support them. Starting from home to office, they should value the potential and encourage them. I always believe, feel and advocate the participation of women in decision making process. In terms of capability, they should not be perceived negatively as generally organizations do. There could be different reason why women would rather work for male boss. It might be experience or personality characteristics etc. But it seems more authentic that male ego is more powerful and centric than woman’s commitment, capabilities and courage. Courage is integral part of leadership, so irrespective of genders, organizations should measure factors that deserve for leadership role.
Good points, but it’s such a complex issue. So much has been written on the subject, and the sum total barely scratches the surface. Plus, so much of it depends on context. I shared a bit of my experience on my own blog back in January.
I have only had one woman boss and the experience was neither exceptionally good or exceptionally bad. I have worked with other women leaders who I deeply respect and admire. Others have been role models for what not to do. Same goes for men.
Being a former engineer and in various leadership functions in tech industries, I have never been in an environment where there was gender balance. I have been lucky enough to be in a male-dominated environment with an exceptionally LARGE number of female leaders. Thinking about the dynamics of that company, I think it’s what kept the entire business in balance and moving forward.
One thing I’ve learned, both men and women react differently to certain (bad) behaviours coming from women. When men behave certain ways, it doesn’t affect us as personally as when women do the exact same thing. That reaction will be very hard to change.
Lets start another line of thought.
I attended a1960’s convent Direct Grant all girls school taught by some enlightened women who ignored societies stereotypes and demonstrated that we should just reach for the stars..whatever that meant for each of us. With the result that many have made a significant difference in their field. I would suggest that education has a place in developing women’s leadership potential…by enabling them to explore and maximise their individual potential and come to come to terms with / mitigate areas that are not so strong.
Thank you, Dan. The women who commented here have revealed many facets of the same issue — women do not share equal status with men in this country, nor are we treated as equals. Still, it’s meaningful when opportunities, like your blog, do occur.
I think one big block for women leaders is children and family. If you’re in your 20s the expectation is that you’re going to leave to have babies so there’s no point in investing in you. In your 30s you’ll be having time off to look after the kids so you can’t handle leadership responsibilities and in your 40s, well, in your 40s it’s too late. Is it? I don’t know if it’s true for everyone, but I do know in my first office job in my mid-twenties I was asked if I was planning on having children, in my 30s and a teacher I was the one who was leaving work to collect sick kids, not my husband. In my 40s I am starting a new business and discovering my leadership skills in the voluntary sector, but I don’t know whether I’ll ever be able to transfer them to the corporate sector. Thanks for your blog, Dan, it’s important to be talking about these issues.
This is all so true. It’s a constant struggle, and I’m often left wondering where to begin to start to shift the mindset. The term “uphill battle” is an understatement.
I wrote about this subject a few months ago, and unfortunately, think that it will still be a relevant topic years from now. If you’re interested, take a read: http://wisakc.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/the-challenge-of-authenticity-by-kate-mcgartland-kinsella/
Thanks for sharing this post, Dan.
I know I’m not the only one to say this…I’m male and all the female leadership qualities are one’s I most readily/comfortably demonstrate. I have been told that they are “introverted” rather than “feminine.”