Sex Differences in Communication Patterns of Leaders

Lips (1997) argues that power difference between the sexes is maintained by variations in men's and women's communication. Men talk more than women, and maintain the difference partly by interrupting women and by not listening or responding to women (Malamuth & Thornhill, 1994). James & Clark (1993; cited in Tainio, 2001) have found conflicting results. After reviewing 33 research reports dealing with the relationship between gender and interruptions, they concluded that there was no support for the argument; both genders interrupted and became interrupted. Interruptions may not always be power displays or games but, for example, a sign of enthusiasm and solidarity (e.g., Tannen, 1994). Tainio (2002) claims that gender difference in communication styles is mostly due to the difference in social status rather than gender, that is, women have a lower status and behave accordingly.

Thus studies on sex differences in language and communication do not show uniform results. Overall, the results tend to show that women's verbal and nonverbal behavior is warmer and more deferential whereas men are more powerful and authoritative in their communication style (Mulac, 1998). Women use more indirect influence strategies (Gilligan, 1982; Steil & Weltman, 1992), they speak more tentatively (Carli, 1990), and they show more nonverbal warmth and adaptive behavior than men (Hall, 1984). In a study by Carli, LaFleur, and Loeber (1995), men were more influenced by the warm and competent female speaker than by the female speaker who was just competent. The warm woman was considered as competent as the one who was just competent. Gray (2002) argues that women express more feelings in their communication in order to include the listener in what they wish to say and to establish a connection with them.

Women show less visual domination than men; they maintain more eye contact than men while listening, but less eye contact while talking (Dovidio, Brown, Heltman, Ellyson, & Keating, 1988), particularly in mixed-sex interactions (Ellyson, Dovidio, & Brown, 1992). Interestingly, it has been found that, in mixed-sex interactions, women's influence is more effective when they display low levels of visual dominance than when they display high levels of visual dominance. On the other hand, men are more effective when they are visually dominant (Mehta et al., 1989; cited in Ellyson et al., 1992 ). Carli (1990) found that women exert greater influence over a male audience when they use tentative rather than direct speech, whereas males are equally influential with a male and female audience whichever of these two styles they use. These results indicate that women receive negative sanctions for being direct, but men can exhibit a wider range of behaviors and still remain influential (Carli & Eagly, 1999). Because of gender stereotypes, the same nonverbal cues that are a sign of power for men may not work for women (Hite, 2000; Lips, 1997). There are vast cultural differences and norms that regulate face-to-face behavior and communication between men and women.

Carli & Eagly (1999) claim that patterns of interaction in groups place women at a disadvantage. Henley (1977) argues that much of the nonverbal communication that characterizes male-female relationships follows a pattern parallel to that of superior-subordinate relationships, since women are more often in subordinate positions than men. Garsombke (1988) claims that organizational vocabulary is masculine, since many typical expressions used in business, such as "strategy" and "headquarters," originate from wars and male-led organizations. Gardiner and Tiggemann (1999) claim that in female-dominated industries women managers were more interpersonally orientated than men, but women and men did not differ in male-dominated industries. On the other hand, women receive attention in male-dominated organizations because they are different. The attention can be either positive (flattery, compliments) or negative (e.g., sexual harassment). Gender can both hinder and advance a woman's career.

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