Sex and leadership

Mar 09 2007 by Brian Amble Print This Article

If any more evidence were needed for the enduring nature of the "women take care, men take charge" stereotype, then the Work & Power Survey of almost 62,000 people conducted by Elle and provides compelling reinforcement that the old preconceptions about sex and leadership are alive and well.

While more than half our 60,000 respondents said a person's sex makes no difference to leadership abilities, most who expressed a preference said men are more likely to be effective leaders.

Of male respondents, 41 percent said men are more likely to be good leaders, and 33 percent of women agreed. And three out of four women who expressed a preference said they would rather work for a man than a woman.

. And when asked who would be more likely to lead effectively, males were preferred by more than a 2-1 margin by both men and women even though women got high marks for being problem solvers and providing more supportive work environments.

Another notable finding from the survey is just how much looks matter at work. Female bosses who were considered attractive were rated competent 58 per cent of the time, compared with 23 per cent for unattractive supervisors.

The central message of the survey further reinforces what Catalyst, a U.S. research and advisory organisation dedicated to advancing women at work, have been saying for years an argument expounded in their 2005 report, Women "Take Care," Men "Take Charge".

Just like the Elle / study, this found that both men and women cast women as better at stereotypically feminine "caretaking skills" such as supporting and rewarding. And both men and women asserted that men excel at more conventionally masculine "taking charge" skills such as influencing superiors and delegating responsibility.

Overall, the Catalyst study found that men saw women as superior in only two out of 10 key leadership behaviours, supporting and rewarding subordinates. And unless organisations take steps to eradicate this bias, women leaders will always be undermined and misjudged, regardless of their talents or aptitudes.

MSNBC | Men rule at least in workplace attitudes