Executive Women: Substance Plus Style
Executive Women: Substance Plus Style
The article "Executive Women: Substance Plus Style" deals with the issue of whether the "abilities and attitudes of male managers are different from those of female managers" and that these differences have been used to keep women out of managerial positions. Furthermore, it suggests that it has now become "fashionable" to state that these differences are favorable and complement the business environment. Lastly, the article focused on several strategies that women should follow in order to succeed as a middle or upper level manager within a large corporation.
The authors refute the notion that the differences between male and female managers are great. They mention that "the few studies that have looked at women and men in comparable managerial roles have discovered more similarities than differences across sexes" (Catalyst, 1986). A test bank from "thousands of managers and professionals in management development programs from 1978 to 1986" was cited as another reason why they believe there are few differences between male and female executives. The tests revealed that executive men and women scored equally on most areas and that executive women are just as capable at leading, influencing, and motivating groups, as well as analyzing problems. The authors go on to show that, despite these similarities, women are disproportionately represented in the ranks of Fortune 500 company executives.
Repeated references are made to studies that were conducted with 22 people, 16 men and 6 women, whose job is to select executives for top jobs. These people are continually referred to as "savvy insiders" throughout the article. These so called savvy insiders were tasked with providing an example of what they considered to be a woman who "made it" and one who "derailed". They describe what basically amounts to a woman who utilizes characteristics of both masculine and feminine personalities. They came up with these four contradictory sets of expectations that women must overcome: take risks, but be consistently outstanding; be tough, but don't be macho; be ambitious, but don't expect equal treatment; and take responsibility, but follow others' advice.
The research was based on a comparison between male and female managers and by tests that measured personality dimensions, intelligence, and behavior in problem-solving groups. As I had learned in a previous psychology class, personality tests are not really an effective measure of personality, nor is an intelligence test necessarily an accurate means of determining ones' success in the future. I would have been more convinced by experimental research rather than by a review of tests or an interview with 76 people.
I have noticed a trend that has been occurring in the military in which many for women are being promoted to the upper officer ranks than at any time before. The Admiral in charge of all Navy training, Vice Admiral Tracy, seems to embody the principles that were discussed in the article. To me, she epitomizes, what I would consider to be, the quintessential executive woman. She is tough but not overbearing; she is firm, but will listen to others' advice; and she never seems to shed her feminine qualities.
It appears that the social dominance of males in our society is a difficult obstacle to overcome for women who are attempting to climb the corporate ladder. While the article states that men and women have more similarities than differences, the differences are hard to ignore. As stated in our textbook, Social Psychology, "men's style of communicating undergirds their social power, men tend to be directive and women tend to be democratic". I believe that the past gender role of women in our society is still affecting what is happening today. As long as the perception that women should fulfill a subservient role persists, I believe it will be difficult for women to achieve equal numbers in upper management in the foreseeable future. While it is apparent that women need to adjust their behavior to become successful, perhaps it is time that men adjust their own behavior to better integrate what constitutes the other half of the population of our society. It would be interesting to see the outcome of an experimental study that observed how role reversal training could possibly affect the attitudes of male business leaders.
1. Morrison, A.R., White, R.P., Van Elsor, E. (1987 August). Executive Women: Substance Plus Style. Psychology Today, 18-26.
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