By Dr. Larry Pfaff
In terms of
and leading the workforce of today, who is best for the job? Men or women?
There has been a sort of conventional wisdom about male and female managers. Each supposedly has certain strengths and weaknesses. According to this line of thinking, women tend to be good at such things as communicating, making employees feel empowered and handing out positive feedback. Men are thought to be more decisive, are better at planning and have greater technical skills.
But those stereotypes didn't satisfy my curiosity, or that of my clients. After fifteen years of wondering, I decided to test the conventional wisdom.
For five years data was collected on 2,482 managers (1727 males, 755 females) from 459 organizations across nineteen states. It included managers at all levels. Using a method known as a 360-degree feedback, the data included each manager's self evaluation with evaluations from his or her boss and direct reports. The study attempted to measure each manager's ability in 20 different skill areas: setting goals, planning, technical expertise, coaching, evaluating performance, facilitating change, standards, recognition, delegation, approachability, participation, strategy, empowering, trust, self-confidence, communication, teamwork, resourcefulness and decisiveness.
The results were surprising. Female managers--as rated by their bosses, themselves and the people who work for them--are indeed better than their male counterparts at the "softer" skills such as communication, teamwork, feedback and empowerment. But they're also more decisive, better at goal setting, planning and facilitating change.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that women rated higher no matter who was doing the evaluating: bosses, employees or the managers themselves. Employees rated female managers higher than male managers in seventeen of the twenty skill areas, fifteen at a statistically significant level. Men and women tied in the other three...