Women are likely to be 'leader-style' executives


December 31, 1990|By Gerald Graham | Gerald Graham,Knight-Ridder

More women, 47 percent, in top positions in large companies are likely to possess leadership traits than men, 39 percent.

So suggest the results of a study of 164 men and women in top positions in Fortune 500 companies conducted by Russell Reynolds Associates, a New York-based executive recruiting firm.

"Leader-style" executives are more likely to be visionary, stable, charismatic people who create change.

Men and women who participated in the study held many common perceptions. Both agreed that the gender of people working for them did not matter. Most thought that men and women are equally likely to receive opportunities leading to "big breaks." Yet, most thought that "big breaks" are not really necessary for advancement.

Most all respondents said that mentoring is a significant aid in career advancement and that leadership skills are key to advancement. Still, men and women attributed their promotions to "consistent good work."

There also were different perceptions between men and women on several key items.

While almost 70 percent of the women reported hostile environments toward women, only 2 percent of the males said that women faced hostile environments. More than 50 percent of the men thought that women had equal access to casual, social interaction with potential mentors. Less than 30 percent of the women agreed.

According to demographics, there was little difference between men and women in the study. Most of the men and women were highly educated, between 40 and 49 years of age, Protestant or Catholic, middle class and white.

However, while 90 percent of the men were married, only 70 percent of the women were married. Women were more likely to have changed companies, and women were twice as likely to be with a company that had a woman on its board of directors.

Sixty-five percent of people now entering the work force are men; less than 15 percent are white, non-immigrant males.

As Malcolm MacKay, the principal investigator, reports, "Organizations will select leaders wherever they find them, no matter what sex they are. There will be great opportunities for women at the highest levels of corporate leadership."

Management quiz

Mark the following statements "true" or "false." Men and women agree that:

* Male executives are more likely to be leaders than femalexecutives.

* "Big breaks" are not crucial to advancement.

* Mentoring contributes to advancement.

* The organizational environment for women is more hostile.

* Women have equal access to casual, social interaction with potential mentors.

* Their companies actively encourage career development among women.

* Both have equal opportunities to exercise authority.

* Leadership skills contribute to promotions.

* "Big break" opportunities are equally available to them.

* Both have equal opportunities to exercise power.

According to a recent study by Russell Reynolds Associates, th true statements are 2, 3, 8 and 9. Statements 1, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 10 are false.

Gerald Graham is a professor at Wichita State University and a management consultant. Send questions to The Wichita Eagle, P.O. Box 820, Wichita, Kan. 67201. He will answer representative questions in the newspaper but cannot respond to every request.

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