Smart Takes

Do women make better managers than men?

Posting in Finance

Are female bosses better managers, advisers, mentors and employees? Apparently some (men and women) believe so.

Are female bosses better managers, advisers, mentors and employees?

Apparently some (men and women) believe so.

The most recent proclamation came from Carol Smith, senior vice president and chief brand officer for the Elle Group, in an interview in the New York Times.

She said:

"Hands down women are better. There's no contest."

She says female bosses tend to be more task-driven and on point, and men love to hear themselves talk. On the other hand, Smith says women take minor things very personally.

I urge you to read Smith's entire interview, in which she explains herself much more thoroughly. But the fallout that ensued with the Times' readers urged editors to publish a roundtable discussion (5 women, 1 man; all professionals) on the subject just a week later.

The verdict?

  • One person says part of the imbalance is the social psychology of it all -- if a woman acts a certain way, it can be perceived differently or with a different context.
  • Another says it's the inbred history of sexism against women in the workplace.
  • A third plays up a woman's different approach (emotion, attentiveness, etc.) and questions what traits we value in an effective leadership role.
  • A fourth says members of both sexes rise to the top based on certain attributes (aggression, competitive nature), and that a mix is ideal.
  • A fifth cites the disadvantages women have had in the past (and present) and suggests women must be that much better to achieve parity.
  • A sixth says each sex has its pros and cons, and the best managers ought to have both.

This topic isn't new, however. Michael Fitzgerald, writing for SmartPlanet sister site BNET, covered it last year with his article, "Women make better managers than men." In that article, he cites Gary Becker, the Nobel Prize Winning economist, who says the glass ceiling is breaking because of the following attributes:

In the article, he also notes complementary skills for male managers. In a follow-up piece, Fitzgerald cites even more reasons.

But not everyone agrees.

Nicole Crimaldi, writing for the Brazen Careerist, says it may be true in one person's experience, but it does not follow across the board, no matter how seasoned an executive they are.

Anne Fisher, writing for Fortune, writes that female managers have an edge in a down economy. 80 percent of those who were fired in the economic downturn were men, she writes.

Philip the Weakonomist says the whole concept of gender-specific inequality with regard to better management is a load of bull.

Courtney Martin at Feministing cites a National Council for Women study that there are distinct gender differences in management style, but that parity at the highest levels creates stability.

Ramit Sethi at I Will Teach You To Be Rich exposes the differences in how women's and men's magazines reinforce different approaches with regard to finances.

Finally, a great discussion on LinkedIn demonstrates different views: some professionals who want to avoid stereotypes altogether, some who acknowledge gender differences but note the importance of having both in the corner office, and some who flat out take a side.

What's your smart take?

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure