Feminine style of management

The feminine style of management is a management style generally characterized by more feminine quality soft skills and behaviors such as empathy, effective communication, and a generally more democratic or team-styled work environment. The style is a growing trend within businesses and is characterized by a form of transformational leadership style. The feminine style of management, although characterized by traits commonly labeled as feminine, it is not a style of management that is only used by females; it is also a style which has been found beneficial for particular types of businesses and organizations.

Historical Development

Early 1900s

Beginning with textile mills and the shoe-making industry of post-revolutionary America, the first real appearance of an explosion of women in a general workforce, whether at home or manufacturing, came at the turn of the century. By World War I, many women were poised to join the workforce as a high population of men served in the war. As men returned from the war and a falling economy led to the Great Depression, women suffered displacement. By World War II there was a similar growth of women in business that had been previously reserved for men. The combination of a better economy and a quickly changing standard of society norms, many women's roles and functions in business steadily increased following World II.


In the 1970s feminist authors denied or minimized the differences between men and women to establish that women had similar talents to men and should have equal labor opportunities. In Schutlz v. Wheaton Glass Co ., a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled jobs held my men must be "substantially equal" but not "identical" to fall under the protection of the Equal Pay Act and that it is therefefore illegal for employers to change the job titles of women workers in order to pay them less than men.

However, as the 1980s began, differences were more emphasized and noted as a means of progression due the management style differences that came of feminine values and ways of behaving, feeling, and thinking.[1]


In 1991, women represented 45% of all managerial positions.[2] Currently, although the feminine management style can be found being utilized throughout organizations internationally now, barriers to acceptance of this management style include stereotype and perceptions, mentoring and networking availability, workplace discrimination, family related issues, as well as funding availability.[3] However, the rise in female leaders is a result of changing theories and practices of leadership.

Gendered Organizations

Reasons a systematic theory of gender and organizations is necessary:[4]

  1. The gender segregation of work, including divisions between paid and unpaid work, is partly created through organizational practices.
  2. Related to gender segregation, income and status inequality between women and men is also partly created in organizational processes; understanding these processes is necessary for understanding gender inequality.
  3. Organizations are one arena in which widely disseminated cultural images of gender are invented and reproduced. Knowledge of cultural productions is important for understanding gender construction.
  4. Some aspects of individual gender identity, perhaps particularly masculinity, are also products of organizational processes and pressures.
  5. An important feminist project is to make large-scale organizations more democratic and more supportive of humane goals.

Gendering Interaction Processes

In addition to the reasons that it is necessary to examine feminine styles of management within theories of gendered organizations, Acker adds, is because gendering occurs in at least five different interacting processes.[4]

  • First, the construction of divisions along lines of gender-division of labor, of allowed behaviors, of locations in physical space, of power, including the institutionalized means of maintaining the divisions in the structures of labor markets, the family, the state.
  • Second, the construction of symbols and images that explain, express, reinforce, or sometimes oppose those divisions.
  • Third, interactions between women and men, women and women, men and men, including all those patterns that enact dominance and submission.
  • Fourth, processes help to produce gendered components of individual identity, which may include consciousness of the existence of the other three aspects of gender, such as, in organizations, choice of appropriate work, language use, clothing, and presentation of self as a gendered member of an organization.
  • Finally, gender is implicated in the fundamental, ongoing processes of creating and conceptualizing social structures.


Types of Management

Within the three main types of managerial styles, studies have examined differences in masculine and feminine styles. The first is the task management style, or how much a leader initiates, organizes, and/or defines work activities and processes. The second style,an interpersonal based style, which is a style where generally the leader builds morale, relationships, satisfaction, and commitment in the organization. Lastly, the third is the group decision making style, which is when the leader encourages a participative, democratic approach[5]

Feminine Style Characteristics

Some studies find differences between males' and females' task accomplishment styles and interpersonal styles. Males tended to be more task-oriented; females tended to be more relationship-oriented. These differences, however, have been observed only in men and women subjects of laboratory experiments, that is, people asked to speculate how they would behave if they were leaders. Management traditionally been male dominated and constructed in masculine terms. Present ideas involving femininity in management include transforming places of work into relation-oriented, flexible, and humane institutions.[6]

Differences disappear in studies where actual managers are compared: most conclude that women do not behave differently from men in the same or similar kind of leadership position. Moreover, experienced women managers show no differences in leadership abilities from experienced male managers. These women, in fact, are likely to more closely resemble their male counterparts in drive, skills, temperament, and competitiveness, than the average woman in the population.[5]


Examples in Research

In 1990, Alice Eagly and Johnson conducted a study on gender and leadership and found results they later emphasized with supporting meta-analysis data.[7] Specifically, in 1992 and 1995, researchers Eagly and Johnson also conducted meta-analysis on the of effectiveness and evaluation, respectively, of differing management styles. The results showed that the main difference in management styles in men and women were that women are more democratic, while men were found to generally be more autocratic, however, the studies show little evidence that would suggest males and females differ in their leadership effectiveness.[8][9] This means that women tend to be more focused on encouraging participation and involving their workforce in business decisions while men are more focused on encouraging performance and driving towards tangible production.

In 2003, a meta-analysis was conducted by Eagly, Johannesen-Schmidt, and Van Engen that compared male and female managers on measures of transformational, transactional, and laissez-faire leadership styles; their findings emphasized the results of their previous study.The meta-analysis study showed that women were slightly more likely than men to exercise a transformational leadership style.[10]

This is a style of management that is likely to be used by coaches, teachers, and other individuals focused on developing subordinates. The transformational leadership encourages participation and creative problem solving. Eagly proposes that the transformational style of management is likely more advantageous for women to employ however. Men were shown to be more likely to critique their employees and be less interactive, in contrast to the women who utilized a more “hands-on” approach.

In contrast, research in the past few decades shows that these results are only averages. Men and Women do not show a significant difference in these management styles, only slight differences. Some men proved to use more feminine styles, while some women proved to use more masculine styles. Eagly states that,“the sex differences are small because the leader role itself carries a lot of weight in determining people's behavior."”

In 2005, a year-long study conducted by Caliper, a Princeton, New Jersey-based management consulting firm, and Aurora, a London-based organization that advances women, identified a number of characteristics that distinguish women leaders from men when it comes to qualities of leadership: Women leaders are more assertive and persuasive, have a stronger need to get things done and are more willing to take risks than male leaders....Women leaders were also found to be more empathetic and flexible, as well as stronger in interpersonal skills than their male counterparts....enabling them to read situations accurately and take information in from all sides....These women leaders are able to bring others around to their point of view....because they genuinely understand and care about where others are coming from....so that the people they are leading feel more understood, supported and valued. These findings were summarized into four specific statements about women's leadership qualities: (1) Women leaders are more persuasive than their male counterparts, (2) When feeling the sting of rejection, women leaders learn from adversity and carry on with an "I'll show you" attitude, (3) Women leaders demonstrate an inclusive, team-building leadership style of problem solving and decision making, (4) Women leaders are more likely to ignore rules and take risks.[11]

BET's CEO, Debra Lee, explains that it is easy to generalize the differences in gender leadership styles as "women do it this way, and men do it that way." Instead of simply generalizing, Debra Lee asserts that it is important to discuss these differences so that women don't feel uncomfortable managing differently from men. During this interview she further states that we should encourage young women to climb the corporate ladder. Lee explained that her hardest lesson was learning to follow her gut when others challenged it, but that lesson has truly paid off. She insists that we encourage young women to do the same.[12]

It's vital for women to embrace these differences. During a 2006 speech given by Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro, the World YWCA Secretary General, he explained that the attitudes toward leadership are changing and what women offer is essential. He stated: "Domination as a leadership style is becoming less and less popular. There is a new growing appreciation of....those traits that women use to keep families together and to organize volunteers to unite and make change in the shared life of communities. These newly admired leadership qualities of shared leadership; nurturance and doing good for others are today not only sought after but also indeed needed to make a difference in the world....A feminine way of leading includes helping the world to understand and be principled about values that really matter." [11]

Recent Examples in Global Society

The feminine style of management embodying organizational progression, more and more female leaders are found within society today. In addition to the thousands of women who now receive graduate and doctoral degrees, many hold managerial positions within companies, and females hold 45% of all all managerial posts.[13]

Today, many nonprofit organizations take a feminine style of leadership approach when handling employees. These particular organizations tend to encourage participation among group members, show flexibility, and maintain a non-hierarchical work environment.[14]

Leaders that take on this style tend to show genuine care and understanding towards their employees. The empathy they have for others enables their employees to feel as though they are recognized and valued within the organization. These leaders are also known for their communication skills and tendency to listen to multiple perspective before making decisions.[15] Their desire to use team-building activities creates a sense of community within organizations, which in turn helps to meet overall goals.[16] An example of a company using team-building, genuinely understand its employees needs, and embracing femininity is Mary Kay Cosmetics. This company strives to treat employees as individuals and help them reach their personal goals. When employees meet particular sales goals they are rewarded with things they desire, such as pink Cadillacs and diamonds. These actions show employees that they are valued and understood, which leads to a positive corporate culture.[17]

Sung-Joo Kim, chairman and chief executive of luxury-goods company MCM Worldwide, is an example of a woman using the feminine style of management to help successfully run a company.Kim's sensitivity and openness towards employees gives her an advantage over other luxury-good corporations. Kim has to find a balance between her sensitivity and still maintaining order and a level of toughness. Kim grew up in a patriarchal Korean household and her experiences led her to strive to prove to others that femininity and power are not mutually exclusive and it is quite possible to be a nurturing woman and still run a successful business.[18]

According to Esther Wachs Book, "A new breed of leader is emerging, and that breed is female." She contends that women, such as Meg Whitman of eBay and Marcy Carsey of Carsey-Werner, succeed because they embody seven uniquely female abilities: they can sell their visions; they are not afraid to reinvent the rules; they are focused on achievement; they show courage under fire; they turn challenges into opportunities; they are aware of customer preferences; and they maximize what Book calls "high touch" in an era of high tech.[19]

See also


  1. ^ Wajcman, Judy (September 1996). "Desperately Seeking Differences: Is management style gendered?". British Journal of Industrial Relations 34: 333–349. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8543.1996.tb00478.x. 
  2. ^ "Women in Business". Encyclopedia of Business. Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
  3. ^ Modaff, D.P (2012). Organizational Communication: Foundations, challenges, and misunderstandings (3rd ed.). Pearson Education, Inc. pp. 255–273. ISBN . 
  4. ^ a b Acker, Joan (June 1990). "Hierarchies, Jobs, Bodies: A Theory of Gendered Organizations". Gender and Society 4: 139–158. doi:10.1177/089124390004002002. 
  5. ^ a b "Gender and Leadership". Reference for Business Encyclopedia. Retrieved 10/02/2011. 
  6. ^ Due Billing, Yvonne; Mats Alvesson (July 2000). "Questioning the Notion of Feminine Leadership: A Critical Perspective on the Gender Labeling of Leadership". Gender, Work & Organization 7 (3): 144–157. doi:10.1111/1468-0432.00103. 
  7. ^ Eagly, A; Johnson, B.T. (1990). "Gender and leadership style: A meta-analysis". Psychological Bulletin 108: 233–256. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.108.2.233. 
  8. ^ Eagly, A; Makhijani, M.G.& Klonsky, B.G. (1992). "Gender and the effectiveness of leaders: A meta-analysis". Psychological Bulletin 111: 3–22. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.111.1.3. 
  9. ^ Eagly, A; Karau, S. J.; Makhijani, M. G. (1995). "Gender and the effectiveness of leaders: A meta-analysis". Psychological Bulletin 117: 125–145. PMID 7870858. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.117.1.125. 
  10. ^ Eagly, A; Johannesen-Schmidt, M.C., & Van Engen, M. (2003). "Transformational, transactional, and laissezfaire leadership styles: A meta-analysis comparing women and men.". Psychological Bulletin 108: 569–591. 
  11. ^ a b Lowen, Linda. "Qualities of Women Leaders: The Unique Leadership Characteristics of Women". About.com. Retrieved 4/8/12. 
  12. ^ Cunningham, Lillian (3/21/12). "On women and Washington: A leadership interview with BET's Debra Lee". The Washington Post. Retrieved 4/8/12. 
  13. ^ Sharpe, Rochelle (20 November 2000). "As Leaders, Women Rule". Bloomberg Businessweek. 
  14. ^ Questioning the notion of feminine leadership: a critical perspective on the gender labeling of leadership, Yvonne Due Billing & Mats Alvesson, Gender, Work and Organization, 7(3), 2000, pp 144-157
  15. ^ "Women Leaders Study: The Qualities That Distinguish Women Leaders." Caliperonline.com.
  16. ^ Kanyoro, Musimbi. "Challenges to Women's Leadership." Speech in honor of YWCA of Salt Lake centennial celebration. 13 July 2006.
  17. ^ Knowledge@Wharton (2005). "The 'Masculine' and 'Feminine' Sides of Leadership and Culture: Perception vs. Reality."
  18. ^ Covel, Simona. (2008). "The Benefits of a 'Feminine' Leadership Style."
  19. ^ "Are women natural leaders, and men...the opposite?". Knowledge@Wharton. Retrieved 4/8/12. 
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