In any business, there is a sharp contrast between the expectations of male and females in managerial positions. While we all share a similar orientation on cultural dilemmas, some specific dilemmas may be a higher prioritized expectation for some individuals rather than others. When concerning both women and men in this particular company, the treatment between the two genders can be contrasted as if two separate cultures.
With a fine line of what is acceptable in female management, it can be difficult to balance between masculine and feminine attributes. Hughes, Ginnet, & Curphy (2012) summarize how women are expected to perform masculine tasks (i.e. “take responsibility”) with a strong counterpoint of taking the task too far (i.e. “but follow others’ advice”). With each expectation having two ends of the spectrum that are unacceptable, it can be very difficult to find the sweet spot in the middle. This is almost “setting up for failure” as the expectations of female management is so much higher than the expectations of men. In the Eagly studies (1992, 1995, 2002), it was found that women in leadership positions are judged depending on their leadership style rather than their true ability. With women seen negatively when using a masculine autocratic/directive style (Eagly et al., 1992), they are perceived as less effective than if they had used a feminine participative or democratic style. These women who use a masculine leadership style also face another obstacle as others may view their style as deviating from general gender norms too far (Eagly & Karau, 2002). However, no matter the style, women are considered less effective than men while studies show that there is no difference in actual effectiveness (Eagly, Karau, & Makhijani, 1995). These struggles that women face based on other’s perceptions are the main support frames for the glass ceiling, or invisible barrier that prevents women from taking on executive leadership positions (Northouse, 2016, p. 399). This barrier of gender prejudice may not be as strong as it was decades ago, but the notion of effective leadership still holds extremely masculine traits. No matter the woman’s ability, she will always face a separate and higher set of expectations than her male counterpart.
While there are many barriers for women to succeed in leadership positions, the organizational barrier of higher standards of performance and the interpersonal barrier of lack of access to informal networks prove the strongest. In a family-owned business with very traditional Sicilian perspectives, women are treated very differently from men. As “women often are expected to perform higher and put in more effort for jobs than men in order to overcome stereotypes” (PSU WC, 2019, L. 13, p. 4), it is no surprise that the females in the company work 60 hour work weeks for nearly half the pay than the men work 40 hour work weeks. Women are given administrative duties while men are working on the floor. This leads to more and more tasks given to the women. With more and stricter deadlines, women are expected to complete all their responsibilities in superhuman time while the men are only expected to act as the face of the business with day-to-day duties. The lack of access to informal networks also coincides with the preference for gender similarity. For example, the business owner will hire a similar male as a general manager that is seen as a protégé rather than an employee. The manager and owner have similar hobbies and interests, so they will have more connections outside of work (like at sports events, wine tastings, etc.). Though I still share many interests with the owner and often act as his own personal assistant, there is little to no opportunity for sharing interests outside of work the way the male leaders do. With some barriers more evident than others, there are clearly methods to decrease the gender differences that women and men face in leadership.
With the perceptions of female leadership and gender preconceptions strong, there exists a different set of cultural expectations as well. The seven dilemmas posited by Huges, Ginnet, & Curphy (2012) hold each dilemma on a scale of two sides. The source of identity, or the degree to which individuals should contribute to a larger group goal is expected to be much more collective for females and individual for men. Males are given more autonomy and time for outside interests while women must constantly work, leaving all off-hours for maintaining house and home. Males are also rewarded more financial wealth (tough goals and means of achievement) while women are expected to gain spiritual satisfaction (tender) with lower pay as executives perceive women as already breaking the glass ceiling by working rather than being a “stay-at-home mom.” The response to ambiguity, or how uncertainty is tolerated, is very structured and stable for women. Tasks are highly structured with clear steps of solution and a high use of micromanaging while men face more dynamic responses with room for flexibility and punitive fluctuation. Conversely, the high task-structure that women face is also met with a high need for active knowledge acquisition and a constant search for new information while men in the company reflect on past problems and how they can be prevented in the future. With men in the company performing day-to-day tasks, men are given a plentiful time frame on a few large projects while the women face scarce time frames for a high volume of projects. In the company, the orientation to authority is corresponding between women and men, but is instead determined by familiarity. Another factor that is similar between genders is the outlook on life. With a large part of the business also including a working farm, there is a high sense of “Being” and living in conjunction with nature. While these dilemmas are ways to consider different cultures, they can also be applied to the different treatment between women and men.
The contrast in expectations based off of preconceptions is extremely rampant in the company where I work, though I am sure many others face the similar struggles. With different perspectives of women and men, there is a heightened awareness of the difference in which different genders are treated whether a conscious decision or not.
Eagly, A. H., & Karau, S. J. (2002). Role congruity theory of prejudice toward female leaders. Psychological Review, 109(3), 573-598.
Eagly, A, Karau, S., & Makhijani, M. (1995). Gender and the effectiveness of leaders: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 111, 3-22.
Eagly, A., Makhijani, M., & Klonsky, B. (1992). Gender and the evaluation of leaders: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 125-145.
Hughes, R. L., Ginnett, R. C., & Curphy, G. J. (2012). Leadership: Enhancing the lessons of experience. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies.
Northouse, P.G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.