Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Women at Work and Business Leadership Effectiveness

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Women at Work and Business Leadership Effectiveness

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Regardless of the relationship that exists between gender and societal roles, there is still a disconnect into how they function in a business environment. There is a struggle to understand what characteristics women need to possess and model to be successful leaders. In August of 2016, women filled only 19.9% of board positions, with 4.6% being Chief Executive Officers (CEOs; Catalyst, 2016; Warner, 2014). The percentage of women in executive manager roles has only had minor changes over the past 40 years, from 5% in the 1970s to 14% in the 2014 and 19.9% in 2016 (Schein, 1973; Warner, 2014; Catalyst, 2016). Estimates indicate that given the rate of change in management positions, it will be 2085 before women reach parity (Warner, 2014).

This is contrary to articles posted as recent as January 16, 2017 in the Washington Post, where Sallie Krawcheck talks about what women can do to improve their careers (McGregor, 2017). Krawcheck believes that women should not be more like men and continue to bring their relationship skills, collaboration and deliberative decision-making approaches to the work environment (McGregor, 2017). Telling women to be themselves in the workforce is contrary to years of the think manager-think male paradigm toted since the 1970s (Schein, 1973).

Krawcheck pushes the envelope and wants women to question the pre-established societal roles that favor masculine characteristics over feminine characteristics for managerial positions. However, historical trends show an apparent notion that there is a perception of women to be less effective leaders when adopting male characteristics (Coder & Spiller, 2013; Duehr & Bono, 2006; Gherardi & Poggio, 2001; Ingols, Shapiro, Tyson & Rogova, 2015; Schein, 1975). An examination of the movement in gender perception of women in leadership roles adopting male characteristics (i.e., agentic) due to societal changes can guide and update business practices (Duehr & Bono, 2006; Ransdell, 2014).

Females in corporate leadership make up a small but important subset of the larger population of women within business. Both male and female managers perceived men to be more likely to have the characteristics associated to be successful managers, which supports the concept that acting male in leadership positions garners better support and following (Schein, 1973; Schein, 1975). Women are faced with a unique challenge when in management positions because they are viewed negatively when adopting perceived male characteristics that help in leadership and management success (Brandt & Laiho, 2013; Eagly & Karau, 2002).

To add to Krawcheck's national conversation on women in the professional world, the understanding of role congruity theory is paramount to access change. Role congruity posits that perceptions that are more favorable exist when the characteristics an individual exudes closely align with the social roles assigned to the group/gender (Eagly, 1987). Women have become more androgynous in leadership style while men have changed very little (Snaebjornsson & Edvardsson, 2013). Think manager-think male appears to be in direct opposition to social and role congruity theories. Gender stereotypes can be damaging to women since masculine stereotypes are considered more essential to management/leader success but judged more harshly when utilized (Brandt & Laiho, 2013). Thus, women who espouse stereotypically male characteristics face preconceptions because incongruities arise between the characteristics linked with the gender and those linked to societal role or gender stereotype (Eagly & Karau, 2002) leading to inauthenticity and breakdown of effective leadership.

The extent leadership effectiveness is linked to gender is not known. For several decades, studies on gender perceptions and differences in leadership have been conducted in business. However, the questions focus on whether there are key differences in the perception of women and men as leaders (Duehr & Bono, 2006; Schein, 1973). …

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