With a Woman at the helm

Published: January 1999
Rebecca Sausner | Stamford Advocate

The gender gap may be more like a canyon when it comes to CEOs’ leadership styles and the corporate cultures they foster.

A recent survey of 2,000 CEOs by Greenwich-based Willard & Shullman Group found some surprising differences between the sexes.

The women who responded to the survey, “Everything You Wanted to Know About CEOs…We Asked,” were much more likely to describe themselves as perceptive, understanding, progressive, controlling and introspective than men were. Characteristics that men selected more often than women did included impatient, willful and easygoing.

Antoinette Allocca, chief executive of Stamford-based Essential Data, quickly thought of dozens of advantages to being a female CEO, many of which echoed the survey responses.

“As a female, I think there’s an open mindedness,” Allocca said, nothing that to increase productivity, she’s more likely to use disarming tactics, like gentle prodding, that might not be favored by her male counterparts.

“You have lots of things in your arsenal that you can draw from that make people feel comfortable,” Allocca said.

One of Essential Data’s top salespeople, Sheila Klatzky, said that there are definite advantages to working for a female CEO.

“A CEO is responsible ultimately for the company’s culture, and the culture here is very, very different from anything I’ve ever experienced before,” Klatzky said. “For example, it’s legitimate to discuss things that are of interest to women.”

But it’s not just he women at Essential Data who notice the difference. Tom Walsh, director of operations, said working for a female CEO creates a much more family-like environment.

“Women tend to be much more approachable, almost like going to Mom,” Walsh said. “Men tend to be business only.”

But for men, there are some drawbacks to working for a woman. “Being a male working for a male you’re able to be more free language-wise, discuss other things in a kidding environment without having to worry about crossing boundaries,” Walsh said, alluding to the heightened awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Bob Shullman, principal of the market research firm, was talking to a neighbor who was CEO of a major insurance firm when he got the idea for the study.

“He said to me, ‘I have 95,000 employees, buy nobody will talk to me,” Shullman said. “It’s lonely at the top.”

And the results show it may be slightly lonelier for men. About 26 percent of the male CEOs surveyed this fall said they miss the office camaraderie they felt before they assumed their role, and 27 percent described themselves as loners. About 15 percent of the female CEOs said they miss the camaraderie, and 25 percent described themselves as loners.

“Most people put CEOs up on a pedestal,” Schullman said. “I think CEOs really want to be included,” And while male CEOs might be wistful about lost camaraderie at work, they might be more likely to find it home. The survey found that only about 8 percent of the male CEOs were separated or divorced compared with 20 percent of the women.

“WorkMatters” appears weekly in The Advocate and Greenwich Times on Thursdays. Have an idea for a story, or spotted a trend at your job? E-Mail ideas to: rebecca.sausner@advocate.scni.com.

30 Local Offices

locations
View All Our Locations

Contact Us

Name (required)

Company

Email (required)

Phone

Comments