by Margaret Locher

Gender Gap in the Executive Suite

Jan 01, 20062 mins

Leadership – Men are better at delegating. Women are better at rewarding subordinates. Tired old stereotypes, perhaps, but both men and women in leadership positions believe them—to the detriment of female leaders, according to a study by the nonprofit research organization Catalyst.

Of 296 senior corporate leaders surveyed, a majority of each gender agreed that men are better at take-charge leadership behaviors, such as influencing their superiors, while women are better at caretaking behaviors, such as team-building. The most disturbing discovery, according to Jeanine Prime, director of research at Catalyst, is men’s perceptions of women’s problem-solving skills. Male survey respondents said that 80 percent of male leaders are effective at solving problems, but only 67 percent of female leaders are. Because men outnumber women in leadership positions, women are less likely to be viewed as good decision-makers.

The implication of this finding, Prime says, is that women are more likely to have their decisions questioned, and thus have to spend more time getting buy-in. That’s time that could be spent on execution. And so, through no fault of their own, many women find their ability to get things done is compromised, which undermines their chances for promotion. Prime says this is one reason why only 16 percent of officers in Fortune 500 companies are women.

Catalyst says one way companies can counter gender stereotypes is by having standard criteria for performance evaluations and promotions.