Senior executives of both sexes need to exhibit macho "kick-ass" characteristics to be successful, it was found in a study of 1,200 managers.
Tuvia Melamid, of Capita RAS, a recruitment consultancy, said the top female executives were quite as "masculine" as their male colleagues. "One senior female manger told me that you have to be more like a man than a man and that you have to walk on dead bodies to get to the top," Dr Melamid told the annual occupational psychology conference of the British Psychological Society, meeting in Blackpool.
It was well-established that there was a clear-cut difference between male and female behaviour in the general population, Dr Melamid said: women were generally more caring and sensitive and men were tough-minded. However, there was very little difference between male and female managers, he found.
While there was some evidence that many women were breaking through the "glass ceiling" and becoming managers, the trend had made little difference to the way executives behaved.
"It's politically correct to suggest that managers should be more caring and sharing and that they should listen to what people say and take it into account, but it doesn't seem to work," he told the seminar.
Over five years Dr Melamid interviewed managers in a wide range of organisations in the public and private sector -- from education to the oil industry - and "macho" managerial qualities were seen to be needed in all of them.
His interviewees ranged from middle managers to chief executives and a quarter of them were women. Most of the successful female managers were seen to exhibit "masculine" characteristics quite naturally. Many of them had no children.
Those women who tried to get to the top of the tree by suppressing feminine qualities and developing the "nasty" approach invariably suffered considerable stress, he said.
"Successful managers understood that they were not liked by their colleagues because they had to take tough decisions.
"And just as `feminine' women experience difficulties, there was also no point in being a 1990s `new man'."