‘Give women a fair chance to lead’ urge psychology experts

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The low number of women in senior positions in organisations could be down to a lack of understanding of leadership styles, psychological assessments have shown. 

Those women who succeed in gaining promotion to the top jobs usually exhibit decision-making styles mirroring those of men, the data reveals.

New research by business psychology specialist The Myers-Briggs Company has found that more than two-thirds (70%) of women in leadership roles use the so-called “thinking” preference to make decisions at work, a preference that is more often associated with men.

The shortfall of women in top roles is highlighted as a main reason for the stubborn gender pay gap.

Women, according to data gleaned by Myers-Briggs from its personality type tests, are more likely to be associated with the “feeling” preference, which the research authors characterise as a value-driven and more rounded approach to decision-making. The thinking preference, by contrast, deploys objectivity, logic and impersonal criteria to make decisions.

However for women who reach more senior positions, the thinking preference dominates. While women are over-represented among lower quartiles of employee levels, more than half (55%) had a thinking preference, the research found.

This would indicate that when women reach higher levels of organisations, a values-driven perspective is lacking in leadership. Roughly equal proportions of men at all occupation levels use thinking and feeling preferences.

The onset of gender pay gap reporting, said John Hackston, head of thought leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company, had helped cast fresh light on the hierarchy of leadership styles: “It has highlighted deep-rooted issues that hinder progress,” he said. “To bridge the gap, businesses must fight against leadership stereotypes that affects their workforce and give women a fair chance to lead.”

He added that people exhibiting a preference for feeling-derived decisions – particularly women – “struggle to be promoted to senior positions”. Men were far more likely to reach a higher occupational level regardless of their personality preference, he said. “Women who display these tendencies are less likely to reach senior positions. It’s likely that stereotypes about gender and leadership play a big part in this.”

The feeling preference should not be seen as inferior in any way, Hackston underlined. “The feeling preference contributes to an effective leadership style. A value-driven approach to decision-making does play a pivotal role in shaping the culture of organisations.

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“Much like any under-represented minority groups in the workplace, without representation in leadership positions to look to as role models, women of all personality types and all employee levels will continue to suffer – and so will the profitability of businesses.”

Leaders, said Hackston, were particularly important in instigating change and more recognition of diverse leadership styles, because they had the “most influence in shaping and transmitting the ‘real’ culture which was not often aligned with ‘ideal’ culture”.

Organisations often use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to improve overall performance by helping workers gain self-awareness, improve emotional intelligence, and increase understanding of how the workplace operates.

Much like any under-represented minority groups in the workplace, without representation in leadership positions to look to as role models, women of all personality types and all employee levels will continue to suffer – and so will the profitability of businesses” – John Hackston, The Myers-Briggs Company

Of the 16 personality types established by Myers-Briggs the ENTJ (extrovert, intuitive, thinking, judger) quadrant, is particularly common among leaders because of an innate ability to direct groups of people. People with predominantly ENTJ traits tend to be self-driven, motivated, energetic, assertive, confident and competitive. They are often primarily concerned with making things happen and can lack appreciation of other people needing to take longer to come to decisions or being more indirect in negotiation.

The structure and values of many organisations favour objective, logical and decisive behaviors, so ENTJs are highly valued and “tend to fall into leadership roles”, Hackston told Personnel Today, adding that the types don’t say anything about how proficient people are.

The types are gender-linked but should not be seen as gender-specific, he said.

There was a danger of organisations over-emphasising objective decisions and leaving people and values behind, Hackston said. This could lead to companies ignoring the people factor and failing to get people onside. It was also the case that by overloading decisions on leaders they were placed under too much stress; “Stressed people don’t take enough into account,” he said.

Hackson added that the MBTI should not be used as a recruiting tool and that its purpose was in building self awareness which, in turn, could improve conflict resolution and benefit other areas of the workplace.

Myers-Briggs’ data came from 1.3 million workers across Europe, half of whom were in the UK.

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2 Responses to ‘Give women a fair chance to lead’ urge psychology experts

  1. Avatar
    Rabid Squinch 14 Sep 2019 at 11:58 am #

    I am a white Male who started a company. I hired mostly black people, hispanic women, and young people. In fact, there are 3 white men in the whole company. Me, the CFO and the COO. Everyone else is female or a person of color or immigrant.

    And no matter how much I’ve been mindful of all the tenets of diversity, inclusion, and creating an equitable workplace, our workers keep shoving the 3 white dudes to the front to do all the client-facing work.

    We’ve literally created minority incentive programs and made the whole damn mission of the company about helping others who have been traditionally excluded from important leadership to be represented in force.

    My team is filled with people with high levels of education, families, homes, grad degrees… and they still want the 3 white boys in charge.

    Having grown up in the 80s and 90s and lived through decades of listening to my fellow Americans argue over the same 10 things in the most mind numbingly, repetitive and boring way possible for 25 years, I have this to say.

    “Really?! After all that complaining about how much guys like ME suck and how bad we are, I spend years building a profitable company and the women I invite to lead decline the invitation despite being brilliant women who are attractive inside and out and who can execute super-well, you’re telling me you DON’T want to lead…? Am I hearing this right?”

    I dont get it and after what I’ve done, I have earned the right to not give a crap.

    If you create a company and you open up leadership spots for women and people of color and they DON’T take it, for argument’s sake, someone tell me how that’s MY fault?

    I’m sure someone will find a reason I messed up as they guy who designed the company.

    I say that if you REALLY are meant to lead, you will be leading.

    Good leadership knows no gender. Why? Because situations demand certain responses and the RIGHT ANSWERS to those situations are genderless.

    1+1=2 isn’t a gendered statement, right? It’s math.

    Therefore, when a business is bleeding revenue, it doesn’t matter if someone with a penis or a vagina or a combination of both makes the leadeship call.

    It had damn well better be the RIGHT DECISION based off all the facts and that decision had better save the company.

    Or, no matter what set of genitals you have, ot dont have or wish you had, you’re gonna get canned as CEO.

    It’s all about money. Learn how money works, learn how to make money and no one will see your color or gender. They’ll just see the cash you rain down on them.

  2. Avatar
    david 18 Nov 2019 at 4:13 pm #

    Feels come second every time.

    Spend your time worrying about ‘feels’ and the competiton that doesn’t worry has left you far behind.

    And those you had ‘feels’ for move on to pastures new and you get left alone with your ‘feels’.

    Thats free market capitalism folks.

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