Why Women Are Better Managers Than Men
Business Journal

Why Women Are Better Managers Than Men

by Kimberly Fitch and Sangeeta Agrawal

U.S. employees with female bosses are more engaged than employees with male bosses.

Female managers in the U.S. exceed male managers at meeting employees' essential workplace requirements.

This article is featured in "Women and the Workplace," a weeklong series exploring a variety of issues affecting modern working women.

This may surprise people who prefer a male boss to a female boss, but employees who work for female managers in the U.S. are more engaged than those who work for male managers. Despite this Gallup finding, only one in three (33%) working Americans say they currently have a female boss. When considering whom to name manager, leaders should take into account the engagement power of female bosses.

Leaders should also know that female managers themselves tend to be more engaged than male managers. Gallup finds that 41% of female managers are engaged at work, compared with 35% of male managers. In fact, female managers of every working-age generation are more engaged than their male counterparts, regardless of whether they have children in their household. These findings have profound implications for the workplace. If female managers, on average, are more engaged than male managers, it stands to reason that they are likely to contribute more to their organization's current and future success.

Higher Levels of Engagement Mean Higher-Performing Workgroups

Managers are responsible for at least 70% of their employees' engagement, according to Gallup's research. Given that female managers are more engaged than male managers, their higher engagement levels likely result in more engaged, higher-performing workgroups. Gallup's data confirm this: Individuals who work for a female manager are more engaged, on average, than those who work for a male manager (33% to 27%, respectively). Female employees who work for female managers are the most engaged, at 35%. Male employees who report to male managers are the least engaged, at 25%.

Female Managers Are Better at Engaging Their Employees Than Male Managers

Employees of Female Managers Outscore Employees of Male Managers on 11 of 12 Engagement Items

Gallup measures employee engagement using the Q12, a 12-item survey that addresses specific elements of engagement. In a survey of working Americans, Gallup found that employees who work for female managers are 1.26 times more likely than employees who work for male managers to strongly agree that "There is someone at work who encourages my development." This suggests female managers likely surpass their male counterparts in cultivating potential in others and helping to define a bright future for their employees. It does not mean that female managers are more likely to promote their associates, but it could signify that women are more apt than men to find stimulating tasks to challenge their employees, thus ensuring associates develop within their current roles and beyond. (See graphic "The 12 Elements of Great Managing.")

The 12 Elements of Great Managing

Female managers are not only more likely than male managers to encourage their subordinates' development, but they're also more inclined than their male counterparts to check in frequently on their employees' progress. Those who work for a female boss are 1.29 times more likely than those who work for a male boss to strongly agree with the Q12 item, "In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress." This suggests that female managers, more so than male managers, tend to provide regular feedback to help their employees achieve their development goals.

Finally, those who work for a female manager are 1.17 times more likely than those with a male manager to strongly agree that, "In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work." In addition to encouraging associate development through regular conversations about performance, this suggests that female managers surpass male managers in providing positive feedback that helps employees feel valued for their everyday contributions. It also indicates that female managers may be better than male managers at helping their employees harness the power of positive reinforcement.

In fact, employees who work for female managers outscore those who work for male managers on every Q12 element except one: "At work, my opinions seem to count." Overall, female managers eclipse their male counterparts at setting basic expectations for their employees, building relationships with their subordinates, encouraging a positive team environment, and providing employees with opportunities to develop within their careers.

Organizations Should Hire and Promote More Female Managers

Female managers in the U.S. exceed male managers at meeting employees' essential workplace requirements. And female managers themselves are more engaged at work than are their male counterparts. Although these findings may be surprising to some, the management implication is quite clear: U.S. organizations should hire and promote more female managers.

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