New Study: Top Women Managers May Be Tougher Than Men

The cliché tells us that women forge a more sensitive and socially responsible working environment. A new study has proven that the opposite is the case.

Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer
Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer
Inga Michler

FRANKFURT — A new global study has found that the idea of a "feminine" corporate management style is a myth.

The global survey has found that the managerial approach within companies becomes more target-focused and tougher as more women reach senior executive positions. According to the study, overseen by the Frankfurt office of the international personnel consultant agency Russell Reynolds Associates, there is a significant drop in emphasis on sociable relationships within a gender-mixed senior managerial team.

Die Welt is the first to report on the findings, which run contrary to the prevalent belief in the current gender diversity debate, according to which the managerial style becomes more "feminine," i.e. more sensitive and socially responsible, with the ascent of women to the helm. Indeed, an analysis of in-depth interviews with more than 4,300 international subjects has demonstrated that the opposite is the case.

The classic gender stereotype begins to disappear when the share of women in managerial positions goes beyond the critical mass of 22%. It is at that point that women start focusing more on their own career and become more like their male counterparts in terms of assertiveness and toughness. The care extended to others and the nursing of relationship decreases measurably with men and women alike once it has gone beyond that critical point.

"The world of management is becoming a tougher place because of this," Joachim Bohner, author of the study and assessment expert of Russell Reynolds, told Die Welt. Instead, everyone becomes more focused on success as a result.

"General" management

"Both women and men in managerial positions get closer to the ideal of a "general manager," Bohner explained. This notion of a "general manager" refers to a professional profile best equipped to deal with the dynamics of the ever-changing markets and the demands placed on companies, which now change at an unprecedented speed.

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Photo: pexels

"This particular person is performance oriented, with the power and ability to engage people emotionally — but at the same time does not hesitate to make difficult decisions if they are necessary to the transformation process," Bohner said.

To overcome the classic gender roles, female managers can likewise be focused on results in an ever more competitive environment. "It enables them to shake off their "exotic" status and simply be an executive," says Bohner, who holds a PhD in psychology.

Women thus can be unshackled from the burden of solving social problems within teams just because they supposedly have more emotional intelligence. "This allows them to finally be on an equal footing with their male executive colleagues and be more successful in their jobs."

Russell Reynolds consultants have devised so-called psychometrical profiles of top managers from 25 countries by using 48 different variants, such as abstract thinking, warmth towards others and perception of fear. The consultants then ordered these countries according to their share of female executives in ascending order, ranging from low to medium to a large percentage of women in managerial positions.

The study demonstrated that once women reach the top level, both women and men seem to share a significant amount of character traits. "The differences between individuals become more relevant at this level than the fact they are of a different gender," Bohner says.

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