Differences and Similarities between Female and Male Managers

Earlier management research took it for granted that managers were men (e.g., Dalton, 1959; Mintzberg, 1973, 1989), and ignored gender issues altogether. The so-called great-man theory is one of the earliest management theories. It argues that persons (men) who have influenced Western civilization have characteristics that are needed in a good leader. Another of the early theories is trait theory. It assumes that effective leaders have distinct personal qualities that differentiate them from other people. Many of these traits tend to be stereotypically male (Weiss, 1996).

Behavioral theories focus on managers' behavior. There are three main types of behavioral theory. The first distinguishes between two types of behavior: task-oriented style and interpersonally oriented style. The second distinguishes between two types of leadership: autocratic and democratic. The third type, situational theory, regards different types of behavior appropriate for various situations. The behavioral theories implicitly suggest that better managers are either masculine (i.e., high-task/low-interpersonal style, autocratic decision-making) or feminine (i.e., low-task/high-interpersonal style, democratic decision-making) (Powell, 1993).

Powell (1993) introduces a modern approach to management theory and claims that there are three perspectives on the difference between female and male managers: (1) there are no differences between men and women as managers. Women managers try to become like men and reject the gender stereotype; (2) men make better managers because their early socialization experiences differ: they play more team sports than girls (Hennig & Jardim, 1977); (3) stereotypical differences between the sexes, where women in managerial roles bring out their feminine characteristics which tend to be stereotypical.

Feminist researchers, such as Rosener (1990), argue that female and male leaders differ in accordance with gender stereotypes. Rosener argues that femininity is particularly needed in today's work life and claims, along the same lines as Powell (1993) and Gardiner and Tiggemann (1999), that there are profound differences between male and female leaders: female leaders concentrate on the relationships between people, whereas men tend to concentrate on the issues or tasks. Women use more personal power, that is, power based on charisma and personal contacts, whereas men tend to use structural power, that is, power based on the organizational hierarchy and position (Eagly & Johnson, 1990). Lundberg & Frankenhaeuser (1999), in turn, argue that there is no difference between men and women in interpersonal style of leadership, but that men are more task oriented than women.

Schein's (1973) classic study concluded that both female and male executives believed that managers possessed characteristics that were more associated with men than with women. In later studies that examined the perceptions of executive women, women no longer describe successful managers as having only masculine characteristics. More recent management theories, such as the managerial grid theory, claim that both masculine and feminine characteristics are important in a good manager. This theory suggests that the best managers are androgynous; they combine both (masculine) high-task and (feminine) high-interpersonal styles (Kauppinen, 2002; Powell, 1993). Although the concept of androgyny has received mixed support, one aspect has been agreed upon: leadership is generally conceived in masculine terms (Goktepe & Schneier, 1988; Kruse & Wintermantel, 1986), but also feminine features are needed in a manager. Frankenhaeuser et al. (1989) claim that female managers are psychologically more androgynous than men, suggesting that female managers absorb masculine features whereas men stick more to the masculine style. Some researchers suggest that women should adopt a masculine style to become accepted as leaders (Sapp, Harrod, & Zhao, 1996). Women in leading positions have been shown to be more masculine (Fagenson, 1990). However, Watson (1988) has indicated that masculine women's performance level is low, and women choosing such a strategy often experience role conflicts (Geis, 1993). Baril, Elbert, Mahar-Potter, and Reavy (1989) claim that adopting one's masculine and feminine behavior to suit each situation separately might be the best approach.

To summarize, Powell (1993) argues that both feminine managers and androgynous managers seem preferable to the masculine manager in today's work environment. More often than not, management and leadership are dependent on the local context and culture where they are practiced, and this makes it difficult to draw universal theories.

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