Dr Robert Perrett, Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management – he has been awarded a Fellowship from the British Academy to carry out research on gender proportionality and inequalities
What do men and women really think about each other as leaders?
Whatever people might think privately, you do not expect in this day and age to hear that many still think men are better leaders than women. Or do you?
This was the finding of some research we carried out with a group of students from around the world at Bradford University School of Management – students on a new MSc module in human resource management.
We carried out a detailed online gender equality survey – which had a 100% response rate.
Some of the results were quite shocking. While there is certainly evidence of improved attitudes towards women in work, it is apparent that many of the old myths still have not been dispelled. All the old stereotypes emerged and reading the results, you might wonder which decade this survey was carried out in?
Look at the table below. Given the bald statement, ‘men make better leaders than women’ we had an astonishing six out of ten men saying they agreed. A mere one in ten of the men disagreed.
At least the women believe in themselves. Nearly seven out of ten don’t think men are better leaders. Interestingly 20% of both the men and women couldn’t agree or disagree with this statement.
Next, let’s look at how men and women view who should be doing the housework. We said ‘women should take on the majority of household chores’ to see what response that would trigger.
Shockingly again, nearly half of the men said yes, women should take on most of the household chores – and only around 20% disagreed. Just one in ten of the women felt they should take on most of the chores.
Women should take on the majority of the household chores
When asked about whether companies design jobs that reinforce gender roles, men think not – women think they do. Six out of ten women said yes, jobs are designed to reinforce gender roles but nearly half of the men sat on the fence, neither agreeing nor disagreeing.
The way companies design jobs reinforces gendered roles
The gender bias continues – even when the students were asked about something more generic, such as are men and women equally committed to their jobs. Six out of ten men said they could not decide – they neither agreed nor disagreed.
Men are more committed to their jobs than women
Given all the above, the next finding will not perhaps surprise you? We asked whether men and women have different negotiating skills. Sixty per cent of the men said women were worse negotiators than men – but so did a quarter of women think this.
Women are worse negotiators than men
It should be emphasised that this research is not representative of any particular group of people – other than our global students.
Forty students took part, and of these
– 20% were men
– The students were generally in their late 20s and early 30s
– They came from all around the world: 52% Africa; 21% UK; 12% Middle East; 6% Far East; 6% Europe; 3% USA
There is a danger that we assume gender attitudes to work today are very different from, say in Victorian Times. But we have to acknowledge the enormous influence of different cultures around the world – and these affect all of us in today’s multi-cultural workforces.
How surprising are the findings of our survey? Do they matter – and how much should we seek to change and influence inherent attitudes? Do they make a difference to HR management, employee relations and business performance?