Does gender affect the ability of an individual to become an effective leader? Some researchers believe that effective leaders are just born while others believe that effective leadership can be learned. But few of these researchers discuss the difference that gender may make in becoming good leaders. When we take a look back through history, we can see that the evaluation of women leaders was slow. Today, only 2. 4 percent (Gettings, Johnson, Brunner, & Frantz, 2009) of the Fortune 500 Company’s are lead by women which is an increase from the 1. percent (www. money. cnn. com) of female Chief Executive Officers in 2002.
The gender differences in the corporate world posses several issues for the Human Resource Managers such as management style differences, pay equity, promotion fairness, and work-life balance. Women began entering the workforce in the late 1800s. During that time, women were employed in what society considered female specific careers such as teachers, nurses, and seamstresses and women made up a very small portion of the workforce.
This all changed with the on-set of World War II. While the men left to fulfill their military obligations, women stepped up to the plate and filled positions in industrial factories across the nation doing jobs typically performed by men. Following World War II, many females continued to work and over the decades have set career aspirations which have led them to the top. As time went on, it became obvious that the gender differences in the work place required Human Resource Management intervention.
Historically, the workplace was predominantly masculine when it came to organizational theory. Organizations were structured on centralized authority, specialization and expertise, and division of labor. Aggressive and dominating leadership styles became less popular among organizations. The era of masculine leadership styles then gave way to the newly desired “feminine way” (Lowen, 2007) of leading. In the late 1900s, organizations became more feminine in nature utilizing concepts such as delegation of authority, collaboration, and empowerment.
In addition, interpersonal relations became a focus for organizations and such things as trust, openness and concern for the whole person kicked off the “feminization of leadership” (Frankel, 2007) and in 1963 the Equal Pay Act was created which mandated equal pay, regardless of gender, for workers performing the same job. This became extremely important as women began to hold top level positions within organizations. Women possess many gender specific qualities and characteristics which enhance their leader effectiveness in today’s “feminized leadership. According to a study conducted by Caliper, a Princeton based management consulting group, women leaders are more empathic, flexible and possess stronger interpersonal skills. The strong interpersonal skills of women enable them to be objective in taking in information from all sides and then take this information and weighing the concerns and objectives of their people. Empathy and genuine concern make subordinates feel valued, supported, and understood.
In addition, this same study noted that women were able to be more persuasive and assertive in taking risks as compared to their male counter parts. This often leads to women coming up with more innovative solutions to problems, and ultimately, getting things accomplished. Many studies conducted across the country within various businesses have concluded that women executives are rated higher than men in the areas of producing high quality work, setting and achieving goals, and mentoring subordinates (Sharpe, 2000).
These studies also found that women were not as concerned with self-interest as men and did not accomplish tasks or achieve goals based on what was in it for them, but instead for the mere enjoyment of their success. It is this type of attitude which inspires companies to employee women in their executive positions. In addition, one of the areas in these studies showed that women excelled at teamwork and motivating teams in getting results. But these studies also included areas where men were stronger such as strategic and technical ability.
Men also seemed to be better at giving punishment and were found to issue double the amount of punishments as compared to women. With so many differences in management styles between men and women, it was necessary for Human Resource Managers to design diversity programs which included education on gender differences, as well as, racism, discrimination, etc. Women are slowly making their way into the corporate ranks of Fortune 500 Companies. According to CNN Money, there are currently 13 female Chief Executive Officers in the Fortune 500 and 26 female Chief Executive Officers in the Fortune 1,000.
Believe it or not, the number of female Chief Executive Officers has doubled compared to 5 years ago when there were only 6 female Chief Executive Officers in the Fortune 500. But, if women make equally effective leaders as compared to men, then why are there so few employed in top management positions? In Tischler’s article “Where are the Women? ,” she talks about how women “scale” back their work in exchange for a balanced personal life (Tischler, 2007). She also discusses the competiveness of men compared to women and how that might contribute to the larger number of men holding top executive level positions.
Most often, women simply don’t want to deal with the work-life balance. Top executives put in grueling long days and their lives are controlled by the company’s success or failure. Women have a natural instinct to nurture and often put their family life before their career. When I read Morris’ article, “Trophy Husbands,” it made me stop and think how husbands could assist in helping their spouse to balance the work-life balance. In Morris’ article, she discusses how husbands have given up their careers to assist their female spouses in reaching the top (Morris, 2002).
I think that this is a huge step in elevating women to the top ranks of the corporate world. These husbands stepped down for many reasons, but some stepped down because they knew their wives had the potential and determination to fill these top positions. They were supportive and wanted to assist by elevating any family related stress by ensuring that things on the home front were taken care of. In fact, although the number of female Chief Executive Officers appears to be low, the truth is women are successful leaders.
There are over 9 million women-owned businesses in the United States and women hold over 45 percent of the managerial positions within large corporations. Indeed, women can and are successful at leading. Yet there is still a large difference in the pay scale of female and male executives. Is it simply a blatant decisions that these companies make, or is it a simply mistake because these organizations do not have an established pay scale system? Human Resource Managers need to be cognizant of pay differences and promotion bias.
According to Stites article, one way to avoid this dilemma is to establish systematic pay systems, ensure equal access to promotions, and document discrepancies with legitimate business reasons (Stites, May 2005). So, does gender matter when considering leadership effectiveness? According to the text, men and women are equally effective at leading, but each gender utilizes different styles in their leadership abilities (Northouse, 2007). It is my position that gender is neutral. Males and females can both possess the skills necessary to be effective leaders and I believe that women can lead companies to success just as well as men.
To be an effective leader, one must know how and when to apply the many different styles and characteristics to each unique situation. Both men and women have unique qualities about them, but the ability to learn from the opposite gender will enhance ones leadership abilities. I believe that men and women can combine and adapt their unique styles of leadership to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses within the workplace. Regardless of gender, developing a leadership style is a difficult and challenging feat for all managers.
In researching the many definitions of leadership, I have determined that leaders are defined as those who inspire workers and develop their skills and creativity to achieve goals. Of the many definitions I read, not one referred to male or female gender when defining a leader. Male or female gender shouldn’t matter when it comes to determining an individual’s ability to lead. The Human Resource Manager must ensure that they are concerned and aware of the gender differences and difficulties which must be dealt with in the business world.
Indeed, gender does matter, especially since women have become a large percentage of the work force and are now moving up the corporate ladder into top level positions. Gender differences create many issues that Human Resource Managers must be able to prevent, mitigate, and/or resolve. Today’s Human Resource Management education programs have increased the ability of individuals to fill these vital management positions. In order for Human Resource Managers to accomplish this task, they must be aware of gender specific management styles, pay equity, promotion fairness, and work-life balance.