Are you cooperative and nurturing at the office? To most, those traits would seem like assets at work. Turns out, they may also make you seem less qualified to be a leader.
Researchers at the University of Buffalo School of Management recently studied more than 1,600 different personality and behavior traits by analyzing 59 years’ worth of previous research. What they found: Men tend to be more assertive and dominant in general, and women tend to be more “communal, cooperative and nurturing.”
Some people perceived co-workers with those stereotypically “feminine” traits to be less qualified leaders
Unfortunately for women gunning for top spots in their organizations: Others perceived co-workers with those stereotypically “feminine” traits to be less qualified leaders, according to the study, which was published in the journal Personnel Psychology.
But men, who were more likely to voice their opinions during group discussions, seemed to be better choices, the researchers found.
That’s not necessarily a good thing, said Emily Grijalva, a co-author of the study and professor of organization and human resources at the University of Buffalo School of Management.
“Because of this unconscious bias against communal traits, organizations may unintentionally select the wrong people for leadership roles, choosing individuals who are loud and confident, but lack the ability to support their followers’ development and success,” she said.
This kind of bias may be part of a larger problem. There are just 24 women CEOs at S&P 500 companies, after the resignation this month of PepsiCo PEP, -0.63% CEO Indra Nooyi.
And just 10% of the 5,700 chief executive officers and chief financial officers in the S&P 1500 stock index companies are women, according to a study from the Pew Research Center.
This isn’t the first time researchers have pointed out the disparity in who companies consider to be good leaders. When women become leaders, men sometimes react in a way that can hurt the organization, a recent study of 1,000 executives at large and mid-sized public companies found.
When women become leaders, men sometimes react in a way that can hurt the organization.
Another problem: Women tend to be picked for leadership roles when companies are already in crisis, a phenomenon known as the “glass cliff.” If the women are unable to turn the companies around, observers often ignore the fact they were on a downturn to begin with.
But there was some uplifting news in the University of Buffalo report. The longer co-workers spend together, the less a gender gap seemed to exist when evaluating one another’s skills. The gender gap was the strongest during the first 20 minutes people spent together, but it weakened after more than one interaction.
“During the hiring process, organizations should conduct multiple interviews to reduce gender bias and ensure they’re hiring the best applicant,” Grijalva said.
Get a daily roundup of the top reads in personal finance delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to MarketWatch’s free Personal Finance Daily newsletter. Sign up here.