Sex and success – influence of female managers

Katherine Callan

ARE YOU MAKING THE MOST OF THE SEX IN YOUR OFFICE? AUTHOR James Q. Wilson believes there are fundamental differences between men and women. It is the role of the manager to encourage the innate strengths of each sex and create an environment that is motivational and fair to everyone.

In his new book, The Moral Sense, Wilson points to evidence supporting male/female differences. There is proof, he writes, that men are more aggressive than women. He tells the story of the California Gold Rush, which attracted single men to an area beyond the reach of the law. They formed all-male communities characterized by violence and chaos. In these near-Hobbesian environments, life was solitary, poor, nasty, and short.

By contrast, the lesser-known Appalachia Gold Rush attracted Cornish miners and their wives, children, and parents. The North Carolinian communities created well-organized mining companies. Because of the familial bonds and bureaucracy, they experienced little violence.

Wilson suggests that the behavioral differences between men and women are rooted in biological factors. In every known society, men are more likely than women to play roughly, drive recklessly, fight physically, and assault ruthlessly. These traits appear early in life and often continue, although they may be somewhat tempered by socialization. Women, as procreators, are more nurturing. In virtually every culture, mothers are the main moral socializers of children of both sexes.

Today, many companies are structured to take advantage of men’s natural aggression, says Wilson, a professor of management at UCLA. “Corporate America was designed by men and most suites men.” Until a decade ago, this made sense — the workplace was dominated by the Y-chromosomed sex. In 1983, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 5.5 million male managers, executives, and administrators in the United States — almost double the number of women. Today, male managers outnumber female managers by just one-third.

The presence of both sexes has the potential to revolutionize the way we do business. Now, women who currently have the easiest time in managerial positions are those most comfortable with doing things “the male way,” says Wilson. But as the number of women in management continues to increase, the rules must change.

OLD RULE: Listen to whichever employees speak up.

NEW RULE: Encourage everyone to speak up.

Consider how many meetings you have been to in which men dominate discussions. “Men complain that women talk too much,” says Wilson. “But in many of the classes I teach,” he says, “men do more of the talking.”

To level the playing field, create exchanges in which everyone gets heard. During meetings, take turns going around the room. If you prefer open exchanges, ask direct questions of employees who do not participate.

OLD RULE: Communicate to convey information.

NEW RULE: Communicate to convey information and strengthen rapport.

“When women talk, they want to establish relationships and solve problems,” observes Wilson. If a conversation later leads to signing a deal or acquiring information, it has served an important purpose.

Men tend to emphasize immediate goals. They communicate to exchange facts and ideas. In a well-functioning team, you want both perspectives.

OLD RULE: Be true to yourself.

NEW RULE: Be true to yourself, co-workers, and your company.

In one classic study of children, boys and girls were asked their reactions to a selection of Aesop’s fables. The boys responded overwhelmingly in terms of justice: the need to honor contracts and respect rights. The girls expressed feelings of concern for characters in need as well as the desire to resolve conflicts.

Research on group dynamics has also pointed to sex-based differences. “Men are more likely to value equity; women, equality,” says Wilson. In today’s business environment, managers must emphasize teamwork, justice, and mutual respect.

Think about it: Does your office resemble the California or the Appalachia Gold Rush community? Identify the differences between your male and female employees and use the strengths of both sexes to create a powerful, unified staff.

COPYRIGHT 1994 Success Holdings Company, LLC

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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