This weekend, a study came out claiming that women make better managers. The researchers cited female’s tendency to lead democratically and keep open lines of communication with their teams.
From the very beginning, I had some issues with this study and ones like it. Bosses, no matter what their gender, come in plenty of different packages. I’ve had female bosses that were superb, and some that were awful. I’ve had male bosses who did an amazing job of communicating honestly with me and others who were difficult to understand at the best of times. No matter what, I think we all need to acknowledge that both men and women are capable of being wonderful managers. And they’re also capable of being horrible ones.
Studies like this do tell us what type of traits that employees and executives like to see in their workers. Obviously, this study found that utilizing feedback was important, and they went on to say that women do this on a more individual basis. However, the point I get from this is that feedback is important, not that women are better.
Even after writing about these new feminine traits that are gaining importance and popularity in corporate culture, I had a problem with the entire premise. Each and every traditionally female trait can be exhibited be men. I’ve had male bosses who make amazing mentors, who understand emotional intelligence and who crowd-source important office decisions. I’ve had female bosses who don’t do any of those things.
As I sit back and stare at this male vs. female battle for management dominance, I just wish that we would stop talking about being a boss in terms of gender. For so long, we’ve asked managers to stop stereotyping their employees based on their sex, and yet we continue to stereotype and generalize about masculine and feminine management strategies as if they only apply to one sex.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter which sex we say is winning. As long as we’re breaking managers down along gender lines, we’re going to continue to create office stereotypes that don’t help anyone. Simply by continuing to compare male bosses versus female bosses, we take sides in a fight that doesn’t need to be occurring.
I’m not arguing that women aren’t still stereotypes in the office. I agree that women still need better representation among high-level executive offices in Fortune 500 companies. But we won’t get there by saying that men manage one way and women manage another. No matter which style is better, stereotyping hurts us all.
The entire point of gender equality in the workplace is to have each individual judged by their own merits, and rewarded based on their own hard work. I don’t want a female promoted simply because upper management assumes that she’ll be good at communicating with her team. I want women promoted because the bosses know that she has a proven track record of success.
Judgments and stereotypes don’t help anyone. Instead of saying that women (or men) make better bosses, maybe we should stick to the traits and characteristics that we’re looking for in our leaders. Then, we can reward the person who best exhibits those traits, no matter what sex they are.