Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Serious Business of Being a Woman in Business

Gender stereotyping, one of the key barriers to women’s advancement in corporate leadership, leaves women with limited, conflicting and often unfavorable options no matter how they choose to lead, according to a recent study. This report, the third in an in-depth series examining the pervasive and damaging effects of gender stereotyping in the workplace, focuses on the consequences of gender bias and three specific “double-bind dilemmas” frequently experienced by women business leaders. The study also suggests organizational solutions to counter the persistent effects of gender stereotyping.

The company findings strongly suggest that gender stereotypes lead organizations to routinely underestimate and underutilize women’s leadership talent. The 2006 report shows that, even though women make up over 50 percent of the management, professional and related occupations, only 15.6 percent of Fortune 500 corporate officers and 14.6 percent of Fortune 500 board directors are women. When companies fail to acknowledge and address the impact of gender stereotypic bias, they lose out on top female talent,

Although multiple research studies show that men and women exhibit similar leadership styles, prior research indicates that men do not face the persistent gender stereotyping that frequently place women business leaders in “double-bind, no-win dilemmas.” According to the study, which interviewed senior business executives from the United States and Europe, men are still viewed as “default leaders” and women as “atypical leaders,” with the perception that they violate accepted norms of leadership, no matter what the leadership behavior. Thus, the studies say, the masculine leadership norm creates three connected, but distinct, “double-bind dilemmas” facing women leaders today.

Extreme perceptions: Women leaders are perceived as “never just right.” If women business leaders act in a manner consistent with gender stereotypes, they are considered too soft. If they go against gender stereotypes, they are considered too tough. Observations show executive women to be at either end of the spectrum, drivers that do it themselves (even though they might have given it to someone). This type tends to give little recognition and is a perfectionist. The others are very effective delegators, giving lots of recognition and building loyal teams, but can be perceived as ‘not tough enough’"

The high competence threshold/lower rewards: Women leaders face higher standards than men leaders and are rewarded with less. Often they must work doubly hard to achieve the same level of recognition as men leaders for the same level of work and “prove” they can lead. Men and women are seen differently, and the difference in my experience and observation is that we (women) need to show it more times before they believe it. With a woman, they will want to see the behavior repeated more frequently before they will say that this is really part of the women and her capabilities".

Competent but disliked: When women exhibit traditionally valued leadership behaviors such as assertiveness, they tend to be seen as competent but not personable or well liked. Yet those who do adopt a more stereotypically feminine style are liked but not seen as having valued leadership skills. It may just be that people are more sensitive to how women behave in that regard. There does seem to be a little more tolerance for harsh behavior from men rather than women. Women are quicker to get labeled and, with men, it’s easier to brush it off." (High-potential woman, U.S.-based manager). I have experienced in the past that women can be distrusted in leadership roles, especially when they use a dominant style of communication. On the contrary, if they use a collaborative style serving their organization and empowering people, they get more recognition and sincere appreciation from their male equals.

Let me just say that as a very assertive female, I have intimidated many a man (NOT intentionally) and put off just as many women (NOT intentionally). Whether we like to believe it or not, it is STILL a man’s world. Until women support, mentor and help each other, we will never come close to making what a man makes or have the power that men do. That said, be prepared to be talked to in what could be a RAW manner… because you cannot have it both ways.

Don't be the Best Kept Secret!

Mary Ann McQueen Butcher
Red Carpet Marketing, LLC
702 994-7282

Red Carpet Marketing, LLC is a full service media, marketing, advertising, public relations and promotional services company. It targets small to medium sized companies in need of marketing expertise; specifically the companies that cannot afford a marketing department, a publicist or an agency.

1 comment:

coachsappho said...

I love what you are saying Mary Ann! Where the heck have you been all my life???? ;-)

Did you see the recent article in the financial times on women's leadership actually helping companies bottom lines more than men's in challenging times? I talk about it here, on my blog:

what are your best recommendations for ways to 'come together' better as women biz owners?