Battle of the gender stereotypes

ONLY 10 per cent of females hold senior level positions within organisations and a mere 7 per cent of board members in Australia are women, according to recent research

ONLY 10 per cent of females hold senior level positions within organisations and a mere 7 per cent of board members in Australia are women, according to recent research.

Furthermore, women struggle to make it to the top because they often find it a challenge to develop and self-promote to a wide network of stakeholders, while their male counterparts appear to be more adept in managing this aspect of their careers.

Research undertaken by the Centre for High Performance Development (CHPD) found that the glass ceiling still holds women back due to a lack of self confidence, while men tend to rate their own leadership competence more highly than women rate theirs.

Men were also found to use communication styles highly recognised in male dominated work environments. Focusing on the facts as well as using direct speech and absolute wording have typically been the keys to male success in the workplace.

Based on research of more than 1,000 employees, the research highlights the need for revised hiring and promotion practices and gender-balanced organisational cultures.

“Women with higher potential to produce results continue to be passed over for lower potential men. Organisations that recognise and address this issue have a strong competitive advantage over those who don’t,” said Martin Hourigan, client service director for the CHPD.

He said that stereotypes of men and women in the workplace can create obstacles for women. “I have come across many HR professionals frustrated because their talent recommendations are not supported by the organisation as this type of data does not cut through traditional views about men, women and performance.”

The CHPD research revealed that women possess a more modern set of leadership attributes, such as thinking, developmental, inspirational and achieving capabilities, to a greater degree than men.

Furthermore, individual preferences for personal style at work continue to reflect gender differences.

Women tend to express greater preference for social considerations and men for power orientations. Unless both sexes attempt to broaden their repertoire of styles, existing stereotypes of male and female leadership styles will simply be reinforced.

Unless businesses identify opportunities to promote high performing women, Hourigan said they will be lost to the detriment of the overall business.

In turn, capable women will continue to leave the corporate sector entirely, choosing to branch out on their own to start successful small businesses.

HR has a responsibility to identify stereotypes and deal with them strategically, he said. “The most important step for HR managers is to understand the gender issues within their organisation.

“This requires some internal benchmarking to identify any significant patterns in turnover and promotion by gender. Once patterns are understood, action plans can be developed to address the specific issues,” Hourigan said.

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