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An increasing number of research show that there are more similarities than differences in leadership styles between men and women. In spite of this, the vertical gender segregation at top management levels still remains a common phenomenon for various organisations.
Male and female workers share many similarities in terms of personality and emotional intelligence, especially at the senior leadership level. However, the factors leading to their success continue to be influenced by stereotypical gender beliefs.
This is one of the conclusions from an extensive study of UK workers by MSc student Alexandra Jégou-Danon and Dr Luke Treglown, University College London, presented today, Thursday 2nd May, at the British Psychological Society annual conference in Harrogate.
Over 80,000 UK workers, representing 22 different industries, completed assessments as part of their own HR procedures. Over 11,000 senior executives participated. The assessments rated their leadership skills, self-awareness, mood control, problem solving, and independent thinking, among other attributes.
These traits were analysed with information relating to each person’s gender, educational level and age.
There was little significant difference between the sexes in most categories, particularly at the senior leadership level. However, the assessment process that led to their success was influenced by traditional beliefs, such as expectations for women to be more caring, compassionate, and emotional; and for men to be more aloof, proud, and aggressive.
Women also did not benefit from age and education, in the same way men did, to reach executives roles.
Alexandra said: ‘Contrary to beliefs, this study found working women and men to be more similar than different, with similarities being even more pronounced at the senior leadership level.
‘However, this study also highlighted that leaders continue to be evaluated differently, based on traditional beliefs in gender roles and stereotypes, despite the lack of empirical evidence. Our study emphasises the need for further research into candidate evaluation to counter gender biases and enable both sexes to realise their full potential at work.’
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg. He writes for the American Psychological Association and has a weekly column for Free Malaysia Today.
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