Disclaimer: Not all female bosses are good. Not all male bosses are bad. This article simply examines character traits and management styles that are perceived as being ‘feminine’ and commonly associated with female leadership.
Did you hear the joke about the female boss?
Whatever it is, it isn’t funny.
Gender equality in the workplace is certainly no laughing matter. While a sad fact is that top management in most Fortune 500 companies is still dominated by males, women have seen many improvements in terms of job prospects, career development and corporate mobility. However, countless pundits and critics have questioned if women really have what it takes to successfully lead teams and organizations. Let’s take a look at what some recent studies tell us about the merits of ‘female’ leadership and why they don’t deserve the bad press.
1. If you work for a female boss, you might feel more engaged.
In a report by Gallup titled State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders, it was found that employees in the U.S. who reported directly to a female manager were more engaged than those who worked for a male manager . The report listed female managers as being 1.26 times more likely to take an active role in cultivating personal development in others. Employees were also more likely to report female managers as being more generous with their commendations as compared to their male counterparts.
2. Women managers are more likely to have transformational leadership styles.
In the same report by Gallup, it was also found that 41% of female managers feel engaged at work, compared to 35% of male managers , resulting in higher-performing workgroups for teams led by women. The findings also suggest that while males assume a more authoritarian approach to leadership, the transformational approach often adopted by female leaders resulted in greater positive reinforcement and feedback within the workplace, fostering a deeper sense of personal value among employees.
3. Women possess soft skills in abundance.
A 2012 study conducted by leadership development firm Zeneger Folkman found that after analyzing 7,280 client performance evaluations, women outperformed men on 12 out of 16 leadership attributes tested . Cooperation, conflict management, empathy and communication skills were all traits commonly ascribed to female managers. While this does not prove that female bosses are ultimately more effective than male ones, it does indicate that they possess a range of attributes that are highly valued in today’s workplace.
4. Women bring human values to the workplace.
Now, this is a controversial point and we certainly aren’t claiming that a business’ values (or lack thereof) hinge upon the gender of its CEO. However, private companies in America run by women lay off significantly fewer workers as compared to companies with male leaders . Fortune 500 companies run by women also far outperform those owned by men in terms of philanthropy and charitable giving . Regardless if you think this is all one big PR conspiracy or truly believe that females are the more charitable sex, there seems to be an indication that female leaders are, on average, more influenced by compassion and kindness than men.
5. Women… and men contribute to a better business.
Finally, we want to emphasize that while the studies mentioned above examine across averages and do not take into account individual differences, there is absolutely NO evidence that women as a whole are incompatible with certain jobs or leadership positions. Gender alone is an insufficient indicator of a person’s leadership and management capabilities, and individuals may certainly possess or train themselves to adopt traits that are highly valued in today’s working environment. In summary, the only enlightened approach in selecting leaders is to assess individual merit. Claiming one gender is ultimately better than another based on arbitrary reasons and flimsy ‘evidence’ is merely thinly-disguised prejudice.