Academic journal article Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l'Administration

Gender Differences among Managers and Nonmanagers: An Analysis of Assessment Data

Academic journal article Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l'Administration

Gender Differences among Managers and Nonmanagers: An Analysis of Assessment Data

Article excerpt


This study examined gender differences among both middle- and lower-level managers, and among nonmanagers, in terms of abilities, social skills, values, needs, managerial aptitude, temperament, personality, and interests. Many significant gender differences were found, but these differences decreased as managerial level increased. The differences between male managers and female managers in general were more pronounced in temperament, personality, needs, and interests than in managerial aptitude, ability, and values. Greater differences were found between male and female nonmanagers than between male and female managers.

In recent years social scientists have begun to examine the reasons why women have limited representation in management positions in organizations, especially at the senior levels (Brenner, Tomkiewicz, & Schein, 1989; Nieva & Gutek, 1981; Powell, 1988, 1990). Although there are many potential reasons for women's proportional underrepresentation in positions of leadership, the possibility exists that male and female managers differ in basic and significant ways. Three competing views have emerged in the literature suggesting that there are (a) stereotypical differences, (b) actual differences, and (c) no differences (Powell, 1990).

Men and women are often assumed to anchor opposite ends of several trait dimensions (e.g., masculinefeminine, active-passive, objective-subjective, etc.). Based on a review of the literature on gender-related behaviour, Spence and Helmreich (1980) suggested that instrumentality-expressiveness is the most representative of these trait dimensions used to describe gender differences. Instrumentality (male) is consistent with independence, self-confidence, proactivity, and self-orientation. Expressiveness (female) is characterized by concern for others and for interpersonal relationships. Masculinefeminine is another trait dimension that has been commonly used for describing gender differences. This trait dimension views men as aggressive, forceful, strong, rational, self-confident, competitive, and independent. Women, in contrast, are considered to be warm, emotional, gentle, kind, understanding, aware of others' feelings, and willing to help others (Fagenson, 1990).

In the organizational realm, Schein (1978) found that both male and female middle managers perceived successful managers as possessing characteristics, attitudes, and temperaments more commonly ascribed to men than to women. This finding indicates that women are themselves influenced by gender stereotypes. Nevertheless, attitudes may be changing. A study by Brenner et al. (1989) found that female middle managers viewed successful managers as possessing attributes that are ascribed in general to both men and women. Male middle managers, however, continued to adhere to a male managerial stereotype.

The vast majority of research in this field has been guided by the gender-centred perspective. That is, most researchers have compared men and women on various personal characteristics to identify gender differences (Powell, 1988). This research has yielded some support for stereotypical views of gender differences. For instance, gender differences that have been identified in social behaviours, such as aggression, helping, and communicative behaviours, are consistent with the stereotypes (Eagly & Johnson, 1990). The differences between men and women in learning styles, personal preferences, and self-attribution also fit the stereotypical view of instrumentality-expressiveness. Further, men tend to attribute their success to internal characteristics such as ability and skills, whereas women tend to attribute their success to external attributions such as luck or an easy task (Nieva & Gutek, 1981).

Some gender differences may be explained by biological factors. For instance, the fact that men possess more masculine characteristics and women possess more feminine characteristics might be due to their differences in hormones, enzymes, and reproductive systems (Wilson, 1993). …

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