To answer the question of are there differences in how males and females lead, the obvious answer is yes, just as there are differences in the way males and females do most everything. After all, they are different genders – there are inherent differences. However, the bigger question is not if there are differences, but rather if the differences are significant, of consequence, or perceived judgmentally rather than objectively.
In most societies, there have been factors that have, in fact, hindered the emergence of leaders. Because biology and evolution have given males a physical advantage, as civilization grew, expanded, and developed, those better able to physically carry the burden of keeping the tribe alive have been thrust into leadership positions. With the advent of more modern medicine, technology, and societal ideals, though, women have begun emerging as leaders as well. A few of the factors that have hindered this emergence are the fact that women are held to higher standards to men (Women, 2017), “broad societal forces and policies perpetuate assumptions and stereotypes which present challenges to women in leadership positions (Shih & Bang, 2013, p. 2), and the fact that being a leader is more than have a leadership title – it means undergoing “a fundamental identity shift” that is undermined by the very organizations that put women into leadership roles because there is no addressing of the “policies and practices that communicate a mismatch between how women are seen and the qualities and experiences people tend to associate with leaders” (Ibarra, Ely, & Kolb, 2013, n.p.).
While the barriers are high and the willingness of society to change relatively stagnant, there are several ways in which the leadership gap between men and women can be narrowed. First, Ken Sterling (2016) recommends that all companies ensure that their evaluation system for choosing people for leadership positions is fair. This is because women tend to be promoted on the basis of their accomplishments where men tend to be promoted on the basis of their potential. Women have to prove themselves first, men do not. Another way to narrow the gap in leadership between men and women is to ensure that leadership reflects membership (Kaminski & Yakura, 2008).
This means that if the labor force of a company, government department, small business, or military sector is 60 percent male, 60 percent of the leaders should be male; if 60 percent of the membership is female, the leadership should reflect that. This matters because the earnings of women still lag behind the earnings of men for equal jobs. Also, women could potentially encourage or promote different priorities than men and vice versa. Leadership should take into account the gender mix of those being led for important decisions and an imbalance could lead to failure for both the leader and the team. A final way for narrowing the leadership gap between men and women entails developing a specific strategy to strategically secure relationships with women already in the business/company/organization and women in the supply chain (Giang, 2014). Planning for, interviewing, hiring, and maintaining women in the organization is critical, as is promoting those women as needed and warranted. Additionally, it doesn’t hurt to actively support the rights of women in general and make it known in the workplace that women’s rights advocacy is strongly encouraged.
So, there are differences in how men and women lead. However, differences are neutral in the sense that there are no right or wrong ways to lead based solely upon gender. Recognizing the differences, utilizing the differences to the advantage of the organization, recognizing the factors that appear to hinder the emergence of leaders in the workplace, and identifying strategies and steps that can be employed to help narrow the leadership gap between the two genders will allow for more work and less rhetoric, more productivity and less emotionality, and more profit and less turnover.