Management Styles: Do Men and Women Really Differ?

By Brandehoff, Susan | American Libraries, January 1985 | Go to article overview

Management Styles: Do Men and Women Really Differ?


Brandehoff, Susan, American Libraries


Are women different types of administrators than men? What unique qualities do women bring to management? Will more women in high-level administrative posts affect the character of library administration?

ROGERS: Women are more comfortable working in nonhierarchical environments and are therefore more likely to be successful administering within "new" organizational models. I don't think women bring "unique" qualities to management. In my observation, women have a more solid experience base because they've been given few shortcuts up the administrative ladder, and they are often very bright and capable because they've had to overachieve to become visible. Women often deal more directly with issues because they have not been fully socialized into some of the male authority patterns that often dominate decision-making meetings. I think more women in high-level administrative posts will change the character of organizational relationships and patterns, and this change will require a revolution in the administration of the organization.

RULE: Women are different types of administrators than men. They give much more attention to detal and to how things are done. It appears that men are more theoretical and women more practical. Women, in the main, can keep several projects going at one time, whereas men usually give primary attention to one project at a time. I do believe that the "character" of library administration will change--to a more pragmatic one.

BEAUPRE: This is a difficult question to answer without making broad generalizations that may not apply in some instances. That said, I move on to broad generalizations. I believe the type of administration one becomes is far more influenced by experience than by gender. For instance, a woman who has spent her professional life in a hierarchical, patriarchal organization is likely to have developed a management style that works in that organizational evnironment--it might even be called a "masculine style." A man who has learned management techniques in an organization characterized by group decision-making and an emphasis on people skills would most likely have incorporated "feminine" facilitative skills into his style. To be a successful manager, you learn to do what works in a given organizational environment.

The best managers have developed a bag of tricks covering a broad range of management styles. Still, as any number of women-in-management books tell us, many women bring certain nurturing and people skills to the workplace that are less likely to be found in men who have been taught to be competitors. This does not necessarily mean these women are better managers. The best managers combine traits that have traditionally been labeled masculine and feminine.

The character of organizations has changed over the last 20 years and continues to change due to evolving management theory, societal changes, and the introduction of new technologies. These elements will affect the nature of library administration to a much greater extent than the change in the ratio of women to men in management ranks.

GAY: In sweeping generalization, women seem to be better at dealing with details than men. Also, they are frequently more able to confront people issues and the resultant interpersonal conflict. I wish this part of the questionnaire were being conducted with all the respondents interacting to see what developes. Based on my exposure to managers in other fields, I think the character of library administration is, and will continue to be, more affected by the nature of the personalities who seek this profession and the training they receive than by whether they are male or female. Trends in management styles come and go, but good organizational and people skills are long-lasting and will continue to be valuable into the indefinite future. I do not see them as gender-related.

LAMONT: Women administrators are more intense. …

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Management Styles: Do Men and Women Really Differ?
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