Women and organization design

There's a long and interesting article in this month's print copy of The Atlantic, called 'The End of Men'.

The summary reads as follows:

"Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women's progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn't the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way- and its vast cultural consequences."

Why do I say it is interesting? It seemed to me to suggest that organizations would operate differently with women in charge, and from this I took (a perhaps unintended) point that organizations would have different designs from the command and control, mechanistic designs rooted in Taylorism. In fact the author, Hanna Rosin, says that

The old model of command and control, with one leader holding all the decision-making power, is considered hidebound. The new model is sometimes called "post-heroic," or "transformational" in the words of the historian and leadership expert James MacGregor Burns. The aim is to behave like a good coach, and channel your charisma to motivate others to be hardworking and creative. The model is not explicitly defined as feminist, but it echoes literature about male-female differences. A program at Columbia Business School, for example, teaches sensitive leadership and social intelligence, including better reading of facial expressions and body language. "We never explicitly say, 'Develop your feminine side,' but it's clear that's what we're advocating," says Jamie Ladge.

A 2007 study by Cristian L. Deszõ and David Gaddis Ross, "'Girl Power': Female participation in top management and firm performance," attempted to quantify the effect of this more-feminine management style.

According to McKinsey Quarterly, in their article A business case for women, September 2008,

"Using data on 1,500 US companies from 1992 to 2006, Cristian L. Deszõ and David Gaddis Ross demonstrate the "strong positive association between Tobin's Q,8 return on assets, and return on equity on the one hand and the [female top-management] participation rate on the other." The authors add that they found "at least indicative evidence that greater female representation in senior-management positions leads to-and is not merely a result of-better firm quality and performance."

I don't know if anyone has done a study on whether women led organisations have different designs compared with men led organizations, or if the design of the organization has any bearing on the way women are able to perform in it. If not, these would be good topics for a PhD.

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