Let’s hear it for the women

DO women make better bosses?

I was posed this question recently by a former colleague who has no good words for women bosses.

This could arguably be one of the more provoking and controversial topics when it comes to the battle of the sexes. Yet in reality, management and psychological researchers have always been intrigued by the issue.

Many studies and surveys have been carried out to try to prove the thesis that women make better bosses — as many as those that have been carried out to discount the belief.

Since the beginning of time, women have always been regarded as the weaker gender.

We are used to hearing phrases like “damsel in distress”, implying that women often need rescuing by men.

Times have changed, though. So have women, with many taking the lead and playing an active role in their fields.

These days, women around the world are holding jobs and positions that men (no pun intended) once thought would never happen.

I have worked under a woman boss before and I found her to be excellent and very efficient. In fact one of the good points I picked up from her was to learn to be patient when dealing with fellow colleagues or staff.

Apart from heading corporate organisations, there are also several women in Sarawak heading government departments and agencies. And judging from the feedback I received from their staff they are very good at their jobs and they manage the people under them professionally.

Some of them include Angkatan Zaman Mansang Sarawak (Azam) general manager Rosalind Yang, Sarawak Biodiversity Centre chief operating officer Dr Rita Manurung, Customs director Jamaiah Joll and Welfare Department director Noriah Ahmad.

Of course the most notable one is former state RTM director Datuk Norhayati Mohd Ismail who went on to become broadcasting director-general. The entire staff have only good words for her.

Women these days are on the frontlines of battlefields. They fly stealth planes, drive tanks and trucks, and yes, they are bosses of many different types of establishments.

They believe in working hard and getting things done. When they are put in managerial positions, they will work even harder to dispel the myth of them being the weaker gender.

Unlike men, they often believe in honesty and that respect is earned and not commanded. I am not saying that men are liars, but women tend not to beat around the bush and are more direct when it comes to meetings and setting directions.

Women also tend to notice little things that men do not; hence, they are more meticulous and detailed. While this is a good quality and is what makes them better bosses, there are those who complain of this as nitpicking.

Yes, they may occasionally have emotional swings, but who says men do not? There are men bosses out there who, too, are moody and tend to let their moods affect their leadership capabilities.

It has been said that if you work for a small and dynamic enterprise, it is likely that the boss is a woman.

Women are known to be creative and enterprising. I bet many of you did not know that some of the world’s most dynamic companies were started by women.

Take, for example, Cisco, the technology giant, which was founded by Sandra Lerner. Or the popular photo sharing website, Flickr, which was founded by Caterina Flake. And then there is what every office cannot survive without — Liquid Paper, founded by Bette Nesmith Graham. The list goes on.

In Malaysia, we have Datuk Maznah Hamid who ventured into a man’s world when she set up a small security company, Securiforce Group, which grew into one of the nation’s biggest security companies, which I believe has more than 4,000 employees today.

A recent study (and many others) by the Madrid University found that women make better bosses because of their interpersonal skills and ability to relate to people better.

In other words, women, like the mothers that they are naturally made to be, are better at nurturing talent and establishing interpersonal communication channels in an organisation.

There are many other such studies. I will quote a few.

The Hagberg Consulting Group study ran evaluations in California on 425 high level executives. The women executives won higher ratings.

A study by management consultants, Lawrence A. Pfaff and Associates in the United States found that women outperformed men on 17 of 20 measures or managerial tasks.

Other such studies have also found that women outranked men, particularly in areas of channelling feedback and communication within organisations.

Of course there have been studies that show otherwise. There have also been studies showing that employees prefer working for men bosses because of the typical complains – that women are sharp-tongued, moody, difficult to deal with when they are experiencing PMS (premenstrual syndrome), emotionally unpredictable and too picky.

Which, again, being sharp-tongued and too picky, I must argue, can actually be good qualities that a boss can have. After all, would you prefer to work for someone who is cincai (anything goes) and end up in a tight spot because things were not thought out carefully, or for someone who singles out little details to avoid screw-ups?

The opportunities for women to be in managerial or decision making positions are growing. Just last year, the Federal Cabinet announced a new policy which provides for at least 30% of decision-making positions in the corporate sector be filled by women.

In general, 48% of the Malaysian workforce is currently made up of women, almost half the country’s total workforce. I understand 18% of these women are holding managerial or key positions.

The cabinet’s policy on requiring more women to be in decision-making positions will soon bring about a change in the current figures.

Expect to have more women in Malaysia to break through the glass ceiling, because (going back to the initial question), women can make better bosses.

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