She Scores, He Shoots

Women are at least as effective as men in leadership roles. In fact, subordinates prefer them. But if they carry out their duties the same way as their male colleagues, they're likely to be evaluated less favorably by them.

"The good news is that, although there are still biases out there, women are not much undervalued as women," declares Bruce G. Klonsky, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Fredonia. But let them try to do "man's work" a "man's way," and they'll be sorry they asked.

Along with Alice H. Eagly, Ph.D., and Mona G. Makhijani, of Purdue University, Klonsky looked at how sex differences in leadership style are judged in organizational settings. Studies have recently shown that there is but one big sex difference in leadership style: Women tend to have a more democratic approach, with more collaboration and sharing of decision-making. Men tend to be more autocratic and directive.

Eagly and Co. asked a group of men and women to evaluate some characteristics of leaders and managers. Then they did the same thing, but changed the sex (on paper) of the leader. The results came as a surprise. When women assumed an interpersonal ("female") style of management, the group approved of women. They reacted less favorably to women who took on an autocratic management style. When men managed in an autocratic fashion, the group approved.

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"Masculine and feminine leadership styles can be understood in terms of the content of people's stereotypes," says Klonsky. "Women are expected to be friendly, unselfish, concerned with others, and emotionally expressive. Men are expected to be independent, masterful, assertive, and instrumentally competent." What happens when women cross into male territory? "The respondents in our study constantly undervalued women who displayed 'male' traits."

Women who sought non-traditional jobs fared even worse. So don't expect any breaktroughs anytime soon. For now, women managers can console themselves that nice girls finish first.

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