Women in Leadership

Complete results of this study appeared in Performance Improvement Quarterly in 2013. Contact us for the complete article or if you would like to have Dr. Pfaff speak on this topic.

Five-Year Study Shows Gender Differences in Leadership Skills

Kalamazoo, MI, September 30, 2009 - Lawrence A. Pfaff and Associates, a Michigan-based human resource consulting firm, has just completed a five-year study of the management and leadership skills of male and female managers. The results of the first two studies were reported extensively in the press in early 1995 and 1996 (e.g., Inc., BusinessWeek, Working Woman, Across the Board, Detroit Free Press, etc.) and again in 2009.

"Now we have over five years of data and the results are more convincing than ever, " said Dr. Larry Pfaff, who conducted the research. "Once again, women outscored the men," said Pfaff. "Female managers - as rated by their bosses, themselves and the people who work for them - were rated significantly better than their male counterparts. This difference extends beyond the 'softer' skills such as communication, feedback and empowerment to such areas as decisiveness, planning and setting standards."

The study, conducted over five years from 1993 to 1998, shows significant differences in the leadership skill levels practiced by male and female managers. The study included 2,482 managers (1727 males, 755 females) from 459 organizations across nineteen states. It included managers at all levels.

Employees rated female managers higher than male managers in seventeen of the twenty skill areas assessed, fifteen at a statistically significant level. Men and women tied in the other three areas. Bosses rated female managers higher than male managers in sixteen of the twenty skill areas, all sixteen at a statistically significant level. Bosses rated men higher on one area (Directive). On self ratings, women scored themselves higher in fourteen skill areas, all fourteen at a statistically significant level. Men and women were tied on the other six areas.

"Our first two studies challenged the conventional wisdom that women are only better at the ‘softer skills' such as communicating, empowering people and being positive," said Pfaff. "This new study using data over a five-year period once again indicates that the conventional wisdom is wrong."

"As we have learned in past studies, the boss ratings show that higher-ups recognize the high skill levels of women managers," said Pfaff. "Women also rate themselves as better managers than the men."

"The statistical significance of this data is dramatic," said Pfaff. "Over a five-year period while gathering data on more than 2,400 subjects, on average, men are not rated significantly higher by any of the raters in any of the areas measured."

Using a method known as 360-degree feedback, each manager was evaluated by his/her boss, direct reports and self on the Management-Leadership Practices Inventory (MLPI). The MLPI uses 85 items to measure twenty skill areas. The MLPI is a reliable, valid measure of management and leadership behavior. MLPI results have been shown in research to correlate to a manager's workgroup productivity. The areas measured by the MLPI are: Goal Setting, Planning, Technical Expertise, Performance Standards, Coaching, Evaluating Performance, Facilitating Change, Delegation, Recognition, Approachable, Directive, Participative, Strategy, Communication, Teamwork, Empowering Employees, Trust, Resourcefulness, Self Confidence, and Decisiveness.

Since 1980 Lawrence A. Pfaff and Associates has provided human resource consulting services to businesses across the country. The focus has been on employee and executive development, 360-degree feedback and selection systems. Pfaff and Associates is the developer of SELECTPro Selection Interview Software and the MLPI System of 360-degree feedback inventories.

To learn more, contact Pfaff and Associates at service@pfaffconsulting.com or call 269-370-0083.