Does gender make the manager?

ALL generalisations are subject to exceptions. And none more so than the one about the great difference between the way men and women run things.

Even so, companies are starting to make the most of the differences they do find. The most forward-looking acknowledge that it makes good business sense to have a labour force that mirrors the customer base as well as to make the most of all the potential of people in the labour pool.

Nevertheless, the Institute of Management reported last week that the proportion of women managers fell last year - for the first time in two decades - from 10.2 per cent to 9.5 per cent. Though some suggest this is because many women have set up on their own, the suspicion remains that they have been the victims of tougher policies as companies grapple with the recession.

Here, Cristina Stuart, managing director of SpeakEasy Training, a consultancy that runs courses on men and women working together, describes a few key differences between the sexes in the workplace that she has found.

Working Together. The male approach to business is competitive, direct and confrontational. The end justifies the means. Personal status and a focus on the individual are important.

The female method is collaborative. Collective action and responsibility assume greater importance than personal achievement. Lateral thinking is important, as well as goodwill and the wellbeing of the individual.

Tackling problems. The male approach is to go for the heart of the problem, stripping away secondary considerations. The female preference is to assemble options.

Body language. Male body language tends to be challenging. The female inclination is towards self-protection. A woman conforming to this female stereotype might appear prim, with legs crossed. The stereotypical male might sit with legs splayed apart. This gives an impression of being in control.

Where it is male behaviour to repeat a point forcefully, perhaps jabbing a finger or banging desk for effect, the female style avoids overtly aggressive gestures. A woman who does not back down may be considered hostile by either sex.

The male physical threat is backed by a stronger, louder voice. Women are likely to back down in a shouting match, both through inclination and the fact that their comments are likely to be drowned out. Should they attempt to compete, they may well be judged shrill and deemed hysterical.

Language. The male way of speaking does not encourage discussion. Points are often put with an air of finality. Women incline towards more discursive techniques. When presenting an idea, contributions are welcomed and often invited.

Conversation. Men like to recount personal experiences and achievements, or discuss 'masculine' subjects, such as cars or sport. Women are more likely to focus on staff problems and personal matters. They analyse and internalise, while men may merely observe.

Meetings. Unless a woman adopts the male confrontational manner, she is likely to find it difficult to have her voice heard and make her opionions stick. Women are often ignored at meetings through having a less insistent presence.

Self-promotion. Men have a natural bent for communicating achievement. Women are more likely to share or pass on the credit for a success. In cultures where assessment is largely based on visible individual achievement, men are at a natural advantage.

Humour. A man's joke usually has a butt or victim, while female humour is less barbed. A woman often jokes against herself.

Caveat. Many men have a 'female' style of working. Equally, many women have a 'male' approach. Thus each sex can have or adopt the other gender's way of working.

Indeed, as Ms Stuart says, many of the current management theorems - flatter organisations, empowerment, managing by consensus - have a 'female style' to them.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
This weekend's 'Big Hero 6' by Disney Animation Studios
arts + ents
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee