Are Women Too ‘Nice’ To Be Good Bosses?

Angel in the office Robin Ely, Ph.D., a professor of
organizational behaviour at Harvard Business School performed an experiment
where MBA students were asked to evaluate the likability, style, competence and
hiring appeal
of the main characters in two case studies. The results were
striking. Even though the two case studies were exactly the same except for the
gender of the main character, the male character was found to be more likable
and more likely to be hired
. The woman was considered power hungry, and the
more aggressive students perceived her, the more they disliked her
. It's tired
but true: Executive women are damned if they act like men and damned if they
. To make matters worse in male dominated professional service firms
senior women were perceived to be poor role models. However, in organisations
where there were more senior women they were applauded. Professor Ely puts this
down to higher performance pressure on the women in male dominated environments
and as a result the women adopt male personality traits, but when women take on
male characteristics, they become disliked by both men and women. A woman who
is behaving in a way that reflects her power is more negatively viewed than a
man doing the exact same thing.
Sadly this is reflected in a Gallup work and
education survey
which found that 34% of men preferred a male boss while 10%
percent preferred a female boss, while 40% of women preferred a male boss and
26% preferred a female boss. (The remaining respondents of both genders had no
preference.) Is this because the cultural model of a leader is masculine and
that leaders are seen to be people who are dominant, competitive and take

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