Women & Teams

not always words you find together given that many women in business have reputations as either “Queen Bees”, people who make the most of their “erotic capital”, or simply aggressive. 

BusMtg07Then we had the research finding that said that to make a team more intelligent – simply add more women.

But the question is whether or not women like working in teams?

The Observer this  weekend reported that two academic economists (and have you noticed how economists are trespassing on research topics more typically associated with psychologists) have published results of an experiment in the Economic Journal.

They found that in competitive tasks 80% of men chose to do it as individuals compared to just under 30% of women (they were equally able on the tasks). They called this the “gender competition gap” and found that it shrank by more than half when the only option was to compete in teams. Then 67% of men and 45% of women chose to compete.

Previous research has shown that men prefer to compete more than women even when they are equally able to do the task. The economists, Andrew Healey and Jennifer Pate, say that it is the environment which is important and changing that can narrow the gender competition gap.

They point out that there are only 5 women CEOs of FTSE100 companies and think that if the emphasis was shifted away from “testosterone-fuelled gladiatorial-style competition” to an environment that focusses on their team-working ability, things could change in favour of women. We know that women are frustrated by their perceived under-representation on boards but it is improving, and some writers think that women have already won the battle of the sexes at work.

They also point out that men will apply for jobs for which they are under-qualified  whilst women do the opposite and if selection or competition was based on teamwork more women and fewer men might apply.

I posted on this issue a year ago following the publication of a management survey which showed that people trusted female CEOs more than male ones to get their company out of recession and save jobs. But women suffer more than men from “imposter syndrome” and are therefore less likely to apply for jobs unless they are highly confident they can do them, whereas men are more likely to overestimate their capability and apply regardless.

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