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Are Men incompetent Leaders in comparison to Women?

08/06/16 Andy Raymond Director, Redline Executive


Whether operating in executive level, middle management or the C-Suite, incompetent managers can be categorised as individuals who are functionally inadequate or have an insufficient amount of knowledge, skills and judgment to undertake the motivating, directing and handling of their team. Today, there is a growing need for greater diversity and inclusiveness are part of a cultural transformation that requires time and humility. It needs a set of clear, measurable, and attainable long-term objectives for leadership and management. However, in the UK there continues to be an uneven management sex ratio with organisations having the inability to discern between confidence and competence, which puts incompetent male leaders ahead of worthier female leaders.

There are three prevalent descriptions for the clear under-representation of women in management, namely: they are not capable; they are not interested; they are both interested and capable but unable to break the glass-ceiling. This is the invisible career barrier based on prejudiced stereotypes that prevents women from accessing the ranks of power in today’s engineering and technical arena. We are fooled into thinking that men are better leaders than women because we commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence.

In the 1970s Virginia Schein introduced the concept of ‘think manager, think male’ to sum up society’s tendency to associate managerial roles with traditionally ‘male’ traits such as assertiveness and confidence. More recent theories maintain that men are preferred for stereotypically masculine jobs which require these so-called ‘agentic’ characteristics, to do with independence, control and dominance, while women are preferred for jobs which require ‘communal’ traits such as empathy, kindness and emotional expressiveness.

However, in Engineering and Technical recruitment, diversity is becoming more and more crucial for innovation. According to the Women’s Engineering Society, in a global survey, 85% of corporate diversity and talent leaders agreed that “A diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that drive innovation.”

Recently, in the technology industry, we have witnessed a number of high-profile cases of incompetent male management decisions which have severely dented the bottom line of large companies. Former Blackberry chief executive Thorsten Heins was roundly criticised by technology commentators for exacerbating the mobile phone makers decline through a serious of poor management moves. In addition to struggling to communicate well to the media. The media criticised that if this situation was to be handled by a female leader, the communal traits associated with females would have recognised the requirement of handling the media. Yet, Heins found himself in deep water trying to revive the company’s fortunes in the face from fierce competition from Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy. Failing to accelerate the development of BlackBerry’s own smartphone, Heins was eventually fired in November 2013, with its stock slumping by almost 60% during his tenure.

To summarise, there is no denying that the path for women to leadership positions is paved with many barriers including a very thick glass ceiling. But the drawback is that there is a lack of career obstacles for incompetent men. The fact that we tend to equate leadership with the psychological features that make an average man a more inept leader than the average woman.

With campaigns such as ‘The 50 Women in engineering campaign’ launched for the first time this year and it is exciting to recognise the achievements of influential women in the engineering and technical sector. The campaigns objectives are not only to raise the profiles of women in engineering, they want women to achieve more of the senior boardroom positions in the engineering sector, where they are even more scarce. This is a great way of identifying high achievers and these women will be visible to the next generation of future engineers.

There has been movement in the progression of women in Engineering and Technology sector becoming leaders. Schneider Electric, the global specialist in energy management, appointed Tanuja Randery, former President of Strategy, Marketing and Transformation at BT Global Services, as its UK & Ireland President in 2015. Randery, who has held a number of leadership roles in global technology and telecommunications firms both in the USA and Europe. She joined Schneider Electric at a time when advances in cloud connectivity, big data and services intend to enable more efficient and advanced energy distribution and consumption.

Schneider Electric has an equality initiative to bring salaries of its male and female employees on par across the globe over next three years. Women account for 30% of its 185,000 employees across the world. The company is also looking at initiatives around better representation of talent from new economies, especially in leadership roles. It has five women in its 15-member board.

Andrew Raymond, Head of Redline Executive comments: ‘It is still embarrassingly rare, the frequency with which we experience female leadership in the engineering and technology sector especially when discussing executive search and senior management appointments. When we do see it, we are always keen to engage as we know without variance that the person has attained their role through tenacity and merit and against probability. For a woman to succeed in this massively male dominated environment speak volumes about their character and resilience. Women often have to work twice as hard to achieve half as much, and that the effort has to be applied constantly throughout their careers is an imbalance created by the male ego that I would be the first to applaud an end to.’

For more information visit Redline Executive or to continue the conversation you can contact Andy Raymond, Head of Executive on +44 (0)1582 878907 or email ARaymond@redlinegroup.com.