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Stereotypes and Women

Stereotypes are present in many organizations, and in most cases are directed toward women. They can affect the way women are perceived in the workplace, and also inhibit their ultimate performance. As you will read, stereotypes effect many elements of professional behavior. Some of which are leadership styles , language, behavioral expectations and double standards. By analyzing these issues, it is easier to understand how both women, and men are swayed by stereotypes. With respect to all of the stereotypes pertaining to male and female behavior, for the purposes of this argument, three specific assumptions will be discussed.

Stereotypes, as defined earlier, can cause misunderstandings and can limit options. The three specific stereotypes are: 1. Women experience greater mood swings than men, and are unfit to perform upper management responsibilities, 2. Girls lack achievement motivation; boys have this motivation, and 3. Males are more aggressive than females. As stated in Management and Gender: issues and attitudes by Margaret Foegen Kartsen, “Mature adults are not slaves to their hormonal systems. ” This refers directly to the first stereotype, where women are not considered capable of upper management duties due to mood swings.

Macoby and Jacklin ( 1975 ) have concluded that ” there is greater variability in male cycle length, and there are external signs of the female cycle. ” Therefore, “male hormone mood cycle is more dangerous, since a man cannot as readily take it into account and deal accordingly with his hostile feelings. ” This argument shatters then shatters the first most common stereotype about female mood swings, and brings to light the male biology with regard to mood swings, which has not been a major issue previously. This concept ties in with the second stereotype where girls lack motivation that boys possess.

What is omitted from this statement, is that boys, in order to reach the same level of achievement motivation as girls needed to be challenged. Ego and sense of competition were played upon so that boys could be motivated. ( Macoby and Jaklin, 1975) This idea also relates to the male dominated corporate culture that will be discussed later on. Males are more aggressive than females. Despite most misconceptions, aggressive behavior is not linked to hormonal variations. More simply, the most appropriate statement to explain this pattern of behavior would be that boys are taught from a very young age that it is acceptable to be aggressive.

Conversely, women who possess aggressive traits are considered ” manly. ” Judy Mann reinforces this theory, she states that ” we raise our sons to succeed, we raise our daughters to be happy. ” By establishing the stereotypes, and providing evidence to alleviate these misconceptions, we can better discuss the leadership styles that are most commonly associated with male and female leaders. Leadership defined is ” the process where by one individual influences other group members toward attainment of defined group or organizational goals. ”

There have been numerous writings, ( books, essays, etc. hat have been devoted to the large number of leadership theories, both behavioral, and contingency. For the specific purpose of this paper , two theories will be discussed. These theories are: task oriented and people oriented. ” Task oriented behavior is directed toward subordinates’ performance and includes initiating work, organizing it and setting deadlines and standards. People-oriented behavior is directed toward subordinates’ welfare and includes seeking to build their self-confidence, making them feel at ease, and soliciting their input about matters that affect them.

These concepts are vital threads to many more complex theories such as Blake and Mouton’s grid organization development, the Ohio State leadership dimensions, and the basis for this argument is the task vs. relationship motivation theory proposed by Fred Felder. “The main difference is that while previous approaches viewed these orientations as behavioral and therefore subject to change, Felder argued that task versus relationship motivation is a personality trait that is essentially constant for any given individual.

According to the article One More Time, Gary Powell reviewed research on sex differences in management and concluded that while women are more associated with the people oriented approach, and males with the task oriented approach, there is no documented evidence to support these stereotypes. Yet due to these predetermined ideas, subordinates react to the stereotypes, as opposed to the actual style of the manager. Subordinates who have never worked with a female manager, according to Powell, have supported these stereotypes.

Fear of the unknown and the reliance on stereotypes probably account for the negative attitudes among those who have no experience with women as managers. ” A possible explanation for this fear can be found in analyzing the organizational culture. “Traditionally, the cultures of most workplace organizations have been based on male models of organizing and of managing. ” Therefore, integrating women into such organizations can be a stressful experience for both the woman and the organization. In addition to the stereotypes discussed earlier, Felice N.

Schwartz, in the article Management women and the new facts of life , mentions that the only role that is still gender related is child bearing. Women are still being viewed in the traditional role, as mothers and caregivers. “Women have often lamented that society judges them almost exclusively in terms of their bodies and looks, reducing them to “sex objects. ” Men are subject to even more impersonal standards; they tend to be judged by their careers and salaries, standards which reduce them to “success objects. “” This idea could lead to a limitation of opportunities available to women in organizations.

Viewing women in these traditional roles, is reinforcing the sexual stereotype and, in turn ” might result in her competence being overlooked. ” The organizational culture, and its structure, has been designed by and for men. ” This makes sense, since at one time the workforce and especially management, were comprised almost exclusively of men. ” Until more recently, the predominant culture in organizations has been hierarchical, competitive, and involved ” masculine language. ” Women are expected to assimilate to these cultures.

It has been established that military and sporting terminology is used within corporations. In corporations, it is understood that in order to obtain a better position one must be aggressive. We have established that aggressive behavior is not biologically related to neither men nor women. Knowing this, both are capable of the necessary characteristics to succeed in businesses. Yet women are still struggling for equality, with regard to upper managerial positions. Stereotypes have affected the fields of public relations, and human resource management. These areas are now becoming female dominated.

Because of the large number of women who occupy these positions, more women feel comfortable in the culture that is implemented. “As this feminization of public relations is occurring, concerns about the status and credibility of the profession have begun to emerge. ” ” The glass ceiling is a metaphor for the invisible but impermeable barrier that prevents women from advancing beyond middle levels in organizational hierarchies. ” This concept has come as a result of women who were working in organizations, at lower levels than men. There have been many explanations for this metaphor.

The pipeline theory, focuses on the history of men in organizations, and explains that it takes twenty to twenty five years for the average man to climb the corporate ladder. Women, having only been integrated into upper management within the past decade or so, have not had enough time. Therefore, ” as men and women enter occupations in equal numbers, then equal numbers of the sexes will attain executive levels in organizations. ” Stereotypes can inhibit the progression of women in organizations, by assuming that women are less likely to peruse a career with a company, as opposed to starting a family.

Schwartz states that ” womenhave a greater tendency to plateau or to interrupt their careers in ways that limit their growth and developmentthe money corporations invest in recruitment, training and development is less likely to produce top executives among women than among men. ” Women due to the fact that they are child bearing are classified as mothers, and not given the opportunities that men are, because there is less of a possibility for men to leave an organization to start a family.

In addition to the pipeline theory, the homogeneity principle, part time employment, and private enterprise attempt to further explain the motives for the glass ceiling. As discussed, the pipeline theory provides a rational explanation, which is non-biased and optimistic for the future. The theory of homogeneity, plays on group dynamics principles. This principle justifies why organizations are mostly male, due to the fact that it is human nature to feel more comfortable with and to perceive more favorably people who are similar to us.

Women who choose to raise a family and still work, are likely to do one of the following: obtain a part time position, stay at home, or start their own business. These three instances, are not counted with the number of women in organizations, and can be considered reasons for the ” glass ceiling” Deborah Tannen, has written numerous books on the topic of how language greatly affects the events that transpire in large organizations. Tannen, being a woman herself, brings to light certain issues that have not yet been discussed in this argument.

Some of which are: gender differences in conversational coherence and sex class linked framing of talking at work, with reference to women and authority, indirectness at work and talking at meetings. In the book Gender and Discourse, Tannen explains that for the purposes of her argument, the ways of speaking are ” links with the class of women and the class of men, rather than necessarily with the individual members of that class. ” By establishing this it is easier to understand the difference in linguistic strategies of classes, men and women.

As with most generalizations, there are exceptions to the rules, these will be discussed later on. Tannen uses framing as a method of analyzing the origins in sex-class differences. According to Tannen, both classes exert the same amount of balance between status (hierarchy/ equality) and connection ( distance/ closeness) in interactions. Yet, if a woman’s conversation was overheard by a man, or vise versa, some meanings would be misinterpreted, due to the lack of knowledge about the others linguistic style.

When interacting within ones class, it is easier to understand the underlying tone of the conversation. Conversely, Tannen states that when men and women interact cross-culturally, there are misunderstandings because women focus more on equality and closeness while men focus on equality and distance. Conversational coherence, in this case, refers to conversations studied by Tannen that occurred between men and women, boys and girls of various ages.

What she discovers is that there are two main elements that create conversational, physical alignment and topical cohesion. Physical alignment includes actual physical positioning of heads and bodies in relation to one another, including eye contact. Topical cohesion is how speakers develop their ideas, and interact with others ideas. What was concluded from this analysis, was that men, although not physically aligned, displayed ” more intense intimacy” and were more engaged, while the women were physically aligned, yet less engaged.

The final outcome was that the females were faster at physically attuning themselves to each other, and decided upon topics more rapidly than the males, also discussing these topics at great length. The males choose a larger number of topics, with a less detailed conversation about each. “Thus the analysis contradicts the frequently heard claim that women’s language is more indirect than men’s. ” In her other book Talking form 9 to 5 Tannen focuses more specific on how men and women communicate and interact in organizations. One chapter in the above mentioned book is devoted entirely to women and authority.

She points out that men, having only a mother figure to refer to, have trouble dealing with women and authority. When people refer to women in authority, they either expect them to be “: soft ” or “weak”, and when they are not, and they exert “aggressive” or “abrasive” behavior, they are considered manly. What these stereotypes do, is ” ambush professional women as they seek to maintain their careers as well as their personal lives- and their femininity” Downplaying authority is a prominent characteristic of female managers.

Tannen goes on to say that this is due to the fact that females’ desire balance in conversations and respect the feelings of her subordinates. Unfortunately, more often than not, this gives the impression of weakness as opposed to considerate behavior. The common bond is respect. Men perceive respect when they are recognized for their positions, and enforce individuality of their subordinates, where as women are more concerned with a family environment, stressing equality, and obtaining respect for not only what position they hold, but how effectively they can manage a team.

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