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Management stereotypes confirmed: women communicate and men are power-conscious

·   Women are thought to have traditional qualities whereas men delegate and assert themselves

Hamburg, 15th May 2013 - Is there a distinction between masculine and feminine management styles? Three quarters of Germans, both men and women, believe this to be the case. Female managers are perceived as good communicators, diplomatic, organised, committed and disciplined. Quite a contrast to their male colleagues who are described as power-conscious, assertive, confident, authoritarian and status driven. These are the findings of a study carried out with 1,000 citizens by the HR consultancy InterSearch Executive Consultants in 2013.

The consensus in Germany states that male and female managers behave differently. Men like to delegate and assert themselves, whereas women are hardworking and open to dialogue. This is the uniform popular response on the subject of top managers’ characteristics.

Men perceive female managers as emotional and sensitive. Women think male bosses are egoistical

A closer examination of the gender perspective does reveal differences, however. While men perceive a female manager primarily as communicative, women regard a manager of their own gender primarily as well-organised. Men also ascribe emotionality and sensitivity to a female boss, whereas women will rank these qualities less highly: they will tend to give a stronger weighting to far-sightedness, which by contrast, men hardly mention as a typically female leadership quality. Both genders agree, however, that female managers emphasize partnership and cooperation in their day to day behaviour.

The perception of male management attributes is less differentiated between the genders. One striking exception to this overall finding is that women rank egoism highly as a male management attribute, whereas men will give it only an average placing. By contrast, the majority of men will ascribe a high degree of professional competence to a male boss, giving a much lower score to a female boss on this attribute (to be fair, men do state professional competence as an attribute of a female manager). Both genders perceive a male manager to be more factual and objective than his female counterpart, and both agree that a male manager is not considered to be communicative.

Stereotypes influence both the selection process and the candidates themselves

“Assumptions based on gender stereotypes in the work-place are widely held, even among HR professionals” says Thomas Bockholdt, Managing Partner at InterSearch Executive Consultants. “Especially when recruiting for a senior management position, supposedly masculine or feminine characteristics are given particular significance, at least sub-consciously or under thinly disguised pretexts.”

Older senior managers tend to hold on to received knowledge about the differences between men and women in the workplace. “The majority of men plan their careers around clear objectives, making them seem to be more power-conscious. They are also accustomed to behaving more confidentially when negotiating their salaries” says Bockholdt. Female managers often avoid behaving assertively or confidently because they are worried about being seen in a negative, “macho” light. “Equally, some male managers consider it a sign of weakness to allow questioning or dissent: of course, this is nonsense and in fact encourages poor decision-making.” Both managers and HR professionals must work harder at letting go of outdated stereotypes.

About the Study

In April 2013, the HR consultancy InterSearch Executive Consultants carried out a study called “Top Management Qualities”. 1000 German citizens aged 18 and over were interviewed on-line and the results were extrapolated to represent the population as a whole. The respondents were able to weight 27 attributes of male and female managers: the choice of attributes was identical for both, but their order was randomized.


About InterSearch Executive Consultants

We specialize in the recruitment of managers and the systematic analysis of management potential with a focus on the “Mittelstand” – medium sized national and international organizations. The company was founded in 1985 under the name “MR Personnel Consultancy” and has offices in Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich with over 30 employees. Today InterSearch Executive Consultants belongs to the international InterSearch network with nearly 100 offices in 45 countries.

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Press contact: Thomas Bockholdt   Tel.: +49 40 46 88 42 0