Who is the Better Manager Today, a Man or a Woman?

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The workplace continues to be a dynamic, ever-changing environment.  Companies need to recognize that what worked ten years ago in management may not work so well today.  Good management is essential for starting a business, growing a business and maintaining the health and well-being of a business.  So to answer the question, “Who makes a better manager?” we should first look at what we are measuring.  Management is defined as planning, organizing for optimal efficiency and effectiveness, leading and motivating employees, and putting in place controls to make sure plans are followed and goals are met.

When it comes to planning, organizing and putting in place controls, we know that men are able and I think it is fair to say that women have proven themselves capable as well.

Women Have Clout in the Marketplace
Classical feminine traits- consultative, conciliatory, partnership-oriented and collaborative, are making headway in successful corporations.  These are positive traits that seem to work in management.  Here are just a few of the top women running corporations: Carol Bartz, Yahoo; Angela F. Braly, Wellpoint; Ursula M. Burns, Xerox; and Andrea Jung, Avon Products (Forbes, September 2011).  They are thriving in what was once a predominantly male-driven business world.  Today, it is more culturally acceptable for women to own, manage and operate successful businesses.  

Key Facts about Women-Owned Businesses (Source: Center for Women’s Business Research)

The Overall Picture: 2008-2009
10.1 million firms are owned by women (50 percent or more), employing more than 13 million people, and generating $1.9 trillion in sales as of 2008.

Three quarters of all women-owned businesses are majority owned by women (51 percent or more), for a total of 7.2 million firms, employing 7.3 million people, and generating $1.1 trillion in sales.

Women-owned firms (50 percent or more) account for 40 percent of all privately held firms.

Businesses Owned by Women of Color
1.9 million firms are majority-owned (51 percent or more) by women of color in the U.S.
These firms employ 1.2 million people and generate $165 billion in revenues annually.

Million Dollar Businesses
One in five firms with revenue of $1 million or more is woman-owned.

Three percent of all women-owned firms have revenues of $1 million or more compared with six percent of men-owned firms.

Clearly, women are playing an increasingly important and influential role in managing businesses.  

Men Differ From Women in Style, Not Skill When It Comes to Managing People
Research studies indicate that men’s leadership styles tend to be more task-oriented, autocratic, command-and-control, and non reward-oriented while women’s leadership styles are more democratic, team player oriented, transformational, and reward-based.  

Why do more and more successful companies have managers with consultative styles and high levels of interpersonal skills?  It works, especially with the Millennials (born after 1979) who are now entering the workforce.   “They’re the ‘Babies on Board’ of the early Reagan years, the ‘Have you Hugged your Child Today’ sixth graders of the Clinton years, and the ‘Teens of Columbine’,” say Neil Howe and William Strauss in their book, Millennials Rising.  Managing this new generation requires a leader who offers structure and supervision, plenty of learning opportunities, entertainment and excitement, teamwork, respect, and above all, flexibility.   Men’s authoritative style and hierarchal environment are less effective today in managing this new millennial generation.  Now I am making some broad generalizations here about men and women and there are noted exceptions.  As it happens I worked for a Fortune 500 Company at a time when there were more women than men in executive positions.  The women of that time (over 20 years ago) tended to be autocratic and driven to succeed at whatever the cost which is certainly not what I would call nurturing.  However, since then, business women are becoming more comfortable using their own styles along with the skill-set necessary to be successful.  This transition may put women in a better position to manage today’s diverse workforce, a workforce that wants flex-time, day-care and elder-care programs, parental leave and similar new policies which are all driving the “humanization” of the workplace.

So who makes the better manager?  It is someone, man or woman, who can balance the goals of the company with the human dynamics of the team today to achieve the results necessary for the company to succeed.

Theresa Freihoefer is a Professor of Business at Central Oregon Community College.  You can contact her at tfreihoefer@cocc.edu or by phone at 541-383-7734.

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