Only in the last century have more esteemed jobs been allocated to women, in light of the women-rights movement. Even though pay between men and women is still unequal and gender discrimination at the workplace is still imminent, the improvement in the opportunities of women to maintain high ranking jobs in the last century has been drastic.
However in certain occupations, such as that of the manager, inequality is even firmer, as shown in studies detailing the sex ratio of managers (Vinniecombe and Colwil, 1995). This phenomenon does not advise that men are more suitable managers, as women are especially disadvantaged in more commonly masculine workplaces, like a managerial role. Rise to new managerial styles and a decrease in prejudice towards women may even prove women to be the more effective managers, or at least equally effective, as men.
When it comes to the occupancy of the manager, Women are still more unlikely to hold the position than in other relatively higher job positions, with only about 10 % of management positions in Europe being held by Women, further of those the grand majority lie in the lower management ranks (Vinnicombe and Colwill, 1995). The implication of these figures are either that discrimination is rife in the world of management, or that the qualities that are commonly regarded as necessary for a successful manager are mostly masculine characteristics, including “drive, objectivity and an authoritative manner” (Wajcman, 1998 pg 55).
Therefore it would seem that men have a natural advantage to being a strong manager. Nonetheless, in recent times certain developments in organization theory, including human resource management and Japanese management have indicated that a more effective management needs a “softer edge and a more people-orientated approach” (Wajcman, 1988 pg 55). The main characteristics of women are commonly seen as “affectionate, helpful, friendly, kind soft-spoken, sympathetic and gentle” (Barreto, Ryan and Schmitt, 2009 pg 23). Thus, this new concept of a productive manager would pertain more to women.
However, as mentioned before, the ratio of female to male managers in lower management positions is still dramatically unbalanced, with higher management positions being only very rarely awarded to women, with an average of 5 % in Europe; even only 2% in England, (Vinnicombe and Colwill, 1995 pg3). This imbalance suggests that the traditionally ideal masculine manager approach is still preferred by the majority of firms and unfortunately only government enforced “Equal opportunities action plans” have really made a significant difference in the sex ratio of managers.
These positive action initiatives have been launched by several countries in the last few decades, as for instance Denmark in 1989 which found that it made a two percent increase in female managers over the course of a year, (Vinnicombe and Colwill, 1995). Hence without the aid of government policies, it will take extremely long for women to be equally represented in managerial roles.
That the traditional masculine view of the manager is still vastly more popular than the newer managerial perception which would be more suitable for females, is not only shown by the stagnant change of the gender representation, but also by the characteristics of the few females who hold top managerial positions. Whilst high ranking male managers behave in accordance to the stereotypical male traits, women who have made it to the top mostly act in their profession in a masculine manner, almost indistinguishable from their male counterparts ((Wajcman, 1998).
Thus, the few Women who have made it to the manager positions have intentionally acted in a masculine manner in order to succeed (Wajcman, 1998). This indicates that the contemporary feminine managerial style has only been implemented extremely rarely, and that in the extensive majority of cases in order to maintain a top ranking manager position one must exert masculine characteristics. Research shows that this feminine approach, also referred to as “transformational leadership style”, is often more useful than the traditional management style, especially in firms with more feminine employees (Barreto, Ryan and Schmitt, 2009).
The fact that the feminine managerial style is thus by many regarded as at least as effective as the traditional style, if not more, yet still barely ever used seems to lie in the explanation of prejudice and discrimination. Tragically, prejudice and discrimination effects equality in the workplace in exponential ways, from the very choice women make when choosing a career, such as being dissuaded from a manager career as it is seen as a masculine position, to the fact that many firms want a man as a manager as they fear a woman may not be treated with the same respect and authority from the employees (Barreto, Ryan and Schmitt).
Such prejudice and discrimination cannot simply be vanquished through stricter discrimination laws, the only truly effective mechanism until now has been positive action initiatives by Governments, which for instance in Scandinavian countries has dramatically increased the representation of Women in management(Vinnicome and Colwill, 1998. In theory, women are at least equally suitable for the role of a manager.
Sadly in practice women are at a disadvantage in attaining any management position, and once that position is maintained women have a much harder time being an effective manager. The reason for this is a lack of respect of some subordinates who don’t see a woman as enough of an authority. Though woman can be just as effective managers as men, ingrained prejudice and discrimination, affecting how a female manager is seen and treated by her subordinates, may make her less of a successful manager.
If women will be more common in manager positions, over time people will get used to a female manager and the prejudice and discrimination will most likely decrease. Thus positive action programs by governments, may be essential to decreasing prejudice and discrimination and making it possible for women to not just theoretically be equal or even better managers than men, but also in practice.