Studies Show Areas Where Women Excel
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Comprehensive management studies are showing women outscoring men in many categories. Of course, my first questions are: Which categories? And why hasn’t this translated into the top two tiers of management?
Business Week reports, “Twenty-five years after women first started pouring into the labor force–and trying to be more like men in every way, from wearing power suits to picking up golf clubs–new research is showing that men ought to be the ones doing more of the imitating.” The studies show that women executives, when rated by their peers, their employees, and their bosses, score higher than their male counterparts on a wide variety of measures—from producing high-quality work to goal-setting to mentoring employees.
Contrary to stereotypes, women outperformed men in intellectual areas, such as recognizing trends, generating new ideas and getting results.
The Hagberg Consulting Group conducts in-depth performance evaluations of senior managers for its diverse clients, including technology, health care, financial-service, and consumer-goods companies. Of the 425 high-level executives evaluated, each by about 25 people, women execs outperformed men. In fact, women managers consistently rated higher than their male counterparts on 37 of 47 critical management qualities such as leadership, social skills, problem-solving and decision-making.
Several other studies showed similar patterns. Personnel Decisions International, a consulting firm in Minneapolis, looked at a large sample—58,000 managers—and found that women outranked men in 20 of 23 areas.
In a five-year study, Lawrence Pfaff, a Michigan management consultant, examined evaluations from 2,482 executives from a variety of companies and found that women outperformed men on 17 of 20 measures. You may not be surprised that women excelled in coaching, teamwork, empowering employees, but they excelled in decisiveness and planning as well. So, “Women Can’t Make Decisions” has been proven untrue. Which adage is next?
Adds Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, ”Women get high ratings on exactly those skills needed to succeed in the global Information Age, where teamwork and partnering are so important.”
Head of IBM’s Global Services Div., Douglas Elix, says that instead of being motivated by self-interest, women are more driven by what they can do for the company.
Now for the Big Question: Why don’t we see more women in the top two tiers? One of the reasons is that more women need to venture out of the human resources and the publicity departments, which rarely provide top-level chair fillers—men or women.
Another reason is the result of backward-thinking stereotypes that make you want to bang your head on the desk, as evidenced by the following research. Robert Kabacoff of Management Research Group has just finished a study showing how CEOs and corporate boards view upper management, and he found a clear double standard. Male CEOs and senior vice-presidents got high marks from their bosses when they were forceful and assertive and lower scores if they were cooperative and empathic. The opposite was true for women: Female CEOs got downgraded for being assertive and got better scores when they were cooperative. Kabacoff’s conclusion? ”At the highest levels, bosses are still evaluating people in the most stereotypical ways.” Banging your head on the desk is not going to help. What we need is more men like IBM’s Douglas Elix who are hiring and promoting women—and talking about it!
Tip: Don’t try to be so perfect! The Hagberg study indicates that women, in a quest to be thorough, want all the data before making big decisions. This style may have helped women reach middle management, but may discourage them from taking career-advancing, high-risk assignments. Take a tip from the men: Speed can often be more important than perfection. It’s a hard idea to swallow, isn’t it? But you know it’s true.
Be sure to visit our site, www.WomensMedia.com to get Expert Advice for Working Women.
See our related article: Women and Leadership: The Delicate Balancing Act
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