Working for a Woman - Part 1
I shared my viewpoint, now find out what my employees had to say.
Because my perspective as a female leader may be jaded, I polled a few members of my staff (both male and female) on their perspective of a male versus female boss and here is what they had to say. Here is the question that I asked them: “When you think about a High Heel Boss, do you ever think about what it took for her to get to stiletto status?”
Words from an employee.
I have tried! Here is what I have come up with…she has had to be more than just a strong leader. She has not only had to contend with the ‘Big Boys’ and the ‘old boys’ club’ but also survive them in order to get people to look at her as a worthy contender. She has had to work harder and smarter than most men in any arena to get to where she is at today. She has had to sacrifice what is commonly known as “work-life balance” something that men rarely worry about giving up because they have someone at home covering the spouse/parent role. She may jokingly tell you she has never even heard of such a thing as work-life balance, but she is the one that will try to make sure her employees have a chance at it. She will have had to fight for the spot she is in, leaving some casualties in her wake. The one difference that I can think of with a woman leaving casualties behind verses a man is, women may naturally tend to feel more emotions, maybe even more guilt as a result of those casualties. The High Heel Boss will have had multiple encounters of sexual harassment displayed in many forms. She will not allow herself to cry about these encounters, you may even see her laugh them off as if they mean nothing to her. As she gets stronger in her heels, she will find ways to limit those opportunities of harassment and she may even turn the tables on them, so to speak.
Working for a High Heel Boss, I have worked for a few of them over my career. As with new heels, some are more comfortable than others and take getting used to. With a High Heel Boss, you understand that it takes a very, very driven woman to be able to stand strong in her heels. Not only is she trying to run companies in these heels, but she is making plans to take a company further than anyone can imagine. It really is quite the adventure to be on the team of a High Heel Boss, you should be someone that wants to enjoy this kind of ride. I mean, roller-coasters are not for everyone. You will most certainly find that not everyone on the team is comfortable with fast paced change or being led to the top by a woman. This High Heel Boss will not only walk gracefully in her high heels, she will most likely be running in them.
In my experience working for male leaders, they put more effort into being a compassionate leader whereas it seems almost effortless with some woman leaders. The man’s ability to be more cutthroat, less emotional appears to come more naturally for them. While a woman will be tougher on the rising fellow women leaders. She will naturally mentor those women that show desire to lead. Men seem to require you to be specific with a formal request of needing him to be a mentor. For me, the bottom line is to be a leader, male or female, you must be a bit ruthless in order to be successful at it. I think it is a special kind of personality necessary to be a strong but good male or female leader. There are bad male and female leaders out there, no getting around it sometimes. I just happen to work for a great female leader.
“Roller-coasters are not for everyone. You will most certainly find that not everyone on the team is comfortable with fast paced change or being led to the top by a woman.”
Words from an employee.
Over the course of my career I’ve had the opportunity to work for both males and females and I’ve seen my share of the good and the bad – with both. Anyone can be a “boss,” but it takes a certain type of person to be a Leader. I do believe there are innate characteristic differences between males and females in relation to how they lead or manage, but I also believe that specific personality traits of the individual and their life experiences determine an effective Leader, not just a boss. To possess the skills of both is unique and rare – and when you find someone with that ability then you have truly found a Leader. Hands down our “High Heel Boss” is all of that and more. She provides you every opportunity possible to accomplish your goals both professionally and personally; she’s a mentor, leading by example; she’s humble and kind and powerful all at the same time. She can multi-task like no one I’ve ever seen and the words “no” and “can’t” are not part of her vocabulary. She’s a fierce negotiator and can bring a grown man to tears. She’s determined and focused and creates a challenging and rewarding work environment for all employees. She’s never idle and her standard of excellence is superior to any I’ve ever seen. She sets high expectations for her team but not without setting those same expectations of herself. She’s creative, calculated and ambitious and will push the boundaries to get the necessary results to make the companies she runs successful. Her drive, determination and passion for everything she does is contagious. So yes, there is a difference between a male leader and a female leader and then there’s a whole other level that is unrelated to whether you are a man or a woman; a level that few people ever achieve. I’m thankful that I get to work beside someone with that level of greatness.
Words from an employee.
Throughout my professional career, I have never worked for or with anyone that comes close to matching Carrie’s ability to run a company. To use the phrase “run a company” is simplifying her true attributes, which to me are twofold. First, Carrie’s has an innate ability to set up policies and systems to scale a business. All too often you will see leaders use a “band aid” approach to growth, finding short term solutions to clogs in a system inhibiting growth. Instead of utilizing these band aid methods that may temporarily enable a business to grow, Carrie resorts to a more systematic approach of laying a foundation in which growth will occur.
The second quality Carrie showcases is her pragmatic approach to the power of negotiation used in the best interest of all parties. Carrie has an ability to get what she wants out of a business transaction, all the while her counterpart feels good about the deal. No matter if she is dealing with a customer, employee, or any other stockholder, she will “win” in the dealings with that person. Although this is a quality most successful leaders have, what makes Carrie different is that the person on the other end of the deal walks away with the satisfaction that it was a good deal for them. That enables Carrie to continue to work with that person and continually get what she needs, all the while, the other person is left feeling like they had a good experience and are willing to reengage Carrie creating a win-win situation for them both.
Words from an employee.
As I thought about this question, my initial reaction was that the differences came more from personality than gender, and for the most part I believe that is true. The personality of the leader is what I have found makes the biggest impact. As I reviewed the leaders that I have worked with in the past, I did find some common threads due to gender and gender roles in our society.
First, I think women are more understanding of home and personal issues that arise in the workplace, probably because they, as primary caregivers have had to deal with these in their own lives. They seem to be more accepting and willing to work with employees to come to an arrangement that allows the employee to take care of home and work responsibilities, take care of the sick kid as well as finish the report. Don’t get me wrong, they want the work done and aren’t looking for excuses, but they are more willing to let an employee work from home for the day or come in early/stay late etc. Women are more flexible when dealing with the unexpected personal crisis.
Second, in my experience I have found that the male leaders hold back on communication with employees, almost as if they are afraid to share too much or give away some secret information. Where female leaders, I have found, are more open and communicative. They want everyone to know the game plan and get onboard. Perhaps this is biological because women in general use more language than men or perhaps it’s an authority issue. Women want buy-in and group consensus. Men, because of our patriarchal society, are used to issuing orders and not explaining the reasoning behind them.
Third, I have found that it is harder for women to delegate responsibilities than it is for men. Women feel that they must prove their worth, that they can do it all themselves. Men, because of their traditional roles in society, have no problem asking/telling someone to do something.
I have often heard that it is harder for women to rise, the glass ceiling and all that, but I figured that was all in the past. That was back in the day before society was enlightened. Recently, at an event a sales associate was presenting and hosting two executives attended, one male and one female. The sales rep blatantly ignored the female executive and chatted up the male associate, introducing him to the other bigwigs in the audience and ignoring the female executive. When the female executive tried to insert herself into the conversation the sales associate shut her down. I was shocked to hear about this blatant sexism still happening and even thought this must be an exaggeration, until a few weeks later when I saw for myself the same sales associate disrespect and disregard the instructions of the female executive - his superior. She promptly put a stop to that, but the point is that she had to. How many men deal with that? Women still must put up with men who haven’t figured out how to deal with women in the workplace. I do find it interesting that men who have strong women in their lives don’t seem to have issues working with or for women. I have had colleagues who were raised primarily by their mothers and they have no problems taking orders from a woman, and in fact it helps them communicate better with their colleagues, both male and female.
On a lighter note, I have never had a male boss ask me to help them with a wardrobe malfunction. I have assisted my female bosses several times.
Words from an employee.
I have had quite a bit of experience with a variety of male and female leaders. In my opinion, there are many differences between male and female leaders, and this is coming from a female perspective. However, that is not to say that all women are good, and all men are bad, or vice versa, because I have dealt with the good and bad from both men and women. Typically, I have found that women are more open to new ideas and suggestions and men usually are not. Women can usually work on several projects at one-time, but men usually cannot, they focus on one thing at a time. Women tend to be more generous and forgiving than men. Women can be very specific about what they expect from you and men are very general, which can be very important for the leader to get what they are looking for. I prefer a female leader to a male leader, but the key is to be flexible and learn how to work with whichever type of leader you are working for.