There have been many studies which have proven that women must adopt at least some male characteristics in order to be successful in their careers. As Rendell (1980) pointed out “where women are – power is not”. This sounds very sceptical and a little bit extreme but we shall see that it has been proven to be realistic to some extent. As Mann (1995) revealed, women gain easily employment at the lowest level but they struggle getting promoted to middle, upper or senior positions.
Therefore, women are not attaining the same level of achievement in their careers as their male counterparts.
In fact, one particular research indicates that female managers have to outperform their male counterparts in order to be perceives as successful (Swiss, 1996). Why is that the case? One reason, according to Brunner (1998), was that there remains a cultural stereotype in that men are more able to work with money or business than women. Many countries, like Egypt, have traditionally perceived work to be a male activity associated with the provider and bread winner role (Burke and El-Kot, 2011).
Women, on the other hand, have been seen as responsible for family and home, and this is why they represented only 23% of the total work force in Egypt (Ramzy, 2002). Another reason is that there is still a stereotype that managers are expected to be competitive, aggressive, and firm. Essentially, they are expected to have characteristics associated with male behaviour (McGregor, 1967). Contrary to that, Carli (2001) goes further to prove that relative to men, women are less influential when using the same aggressive form of communication that men normally use as part of their nature.
That paradox makes it questionable whether it is possible for a woman, displaying male traits, to be taken seriously and be respected as a manager. According to Claire Pomeroy (2004), if women want to be taken as serious workers, they need to ”dress in a masculine manner, avoid mentioning their children and never leave work earlier due to family responsibilities”. Moreover, in order to achieve and maintain high social status, professional women have to have emotional detachment (Academy of Management, 2007). Contrary to that, the stereotypical image of women generates a perception of emotional sensitivity.
Therefore, women often have no other choice, except to find some balance between their public life (e. g. career) and private life (e. g. family and children), whilst ensuring neither conflicts. As a result, Pomeroy (2004) concludes that, ” if women do not adopt a masculine style, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to succeed”. Another interesting argument has been recently suggested, namely that ”masculine” women who know when to be ‘feminine’ at work get more promotions. In other words, ”women who are able to turn on and turn off these masculine traits were more likely able to succeed”.
In fact, the results proved that these women received one and a half more promotions than ”masculine” men and twice as many promotions as ”feminine” men (Kim, 2011). Therefore, researchers do not suggest that females should avoid behaving according to their gender stereotypes. They just have to be flexible enough in any situation and therefore, display androgynous sex role beliefs (Bem, 1974). If they do not adopt male characteristics at all, is it still possible for them to advance to senior positions?
Arguments and evidence that women do not need to adopt male characteristics in order to succeed On one hand, there is much evidence that suggests that women must adopt male characteristics in order to succeed. Conversely, numerous studies have argued the opposite – that being a ‘masculine’ woman is the wrong strategy to reach the boardroom. In fact, as one woman stated ”Women who act like men: it does not work” (Academy of Management, 2007). Why is that so? One of the biggest criticism of masculine women is that they are exposed to the so called ”backlash effect” (Science Daily, 2011).
The term has been defined as social and economic reprisal for behaving counterstereotypically (Rudman, L. A. , 1998). According to descriptive gender stereotypes, women are expected to show greater warmth and nurturance than men are, whereas men are expected to show higher levels of aggressiveness and competitiveness (Eagly & Johannesen-Shmidt, 1991). Researchers have proven that women who display male characteristics are often judged negatively and held back professionally, and consequently women with feminine attitude may be more successful (Baedeker, 2011).
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