Demystification of the glass ceiling phenomenon: Gender stereotyping and successful managers’ personality traits in Greece

Konstantinos Vassakis (Technological Educational Institute of Crete, Heraklion, Greece)
Georgia Sakka (University of Nicosia, Nicosia, Cyprus)
Christos Lemonakis (Department of Accounting and Finance, Technological Educational Institute of Crete, Heraklion, Greece)

EuroMed Journal of Business

ISSN: 1450-2194

Publication date: 8 May 2018

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the gender role phenomenon and the stereotyping of requisite managers’ personal characteristics in the Greek society of today.

Design/methodology/approach

Data were collected quantitatively based on the informants’ perceptions on successful managers’ personality traits and according to the informants’ personality characteristics. Questionnaires were administered online to two separate convenience samples. Reliability analysis (Cronbach’s α) was employed for scale refinement, while intraclass correlation coefficient (r’) and t-test analysis examined the similarity of respondents’ responses across the items of the refined scale.

Findings

The results indicate that gender role stereotypes are challenged. It seems that the perceived managers’ personality is comprised of both agentic/masculine and communal/feminine characteristics and this perception is not perceived differently by men and women. This debates on whether the “glass ceiling” exists due to other determinants.

Originality/value

The study contributes to the literature on gender role stereotyping research and perceptions of managerial personality characteristics in Greece.

Keywords

Citation

Vassakis, K., Sakka, G. and Lemonakis, C. (2018), "Demystification of the glass ceiling phenomenon", EuroMed Journal of Business, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 2-19. https://doi.org/10.1108/EMJB-06-2017-0023

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Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited


Introduction

The number of women in managerial positions has grown rather rapidly during the past decades and in certain organizational sub-units, such as HRM and PR, women even outnumber men (Ross-Smith and Huppatz, 2010). Women’s participation in senior management positions is also increased during the last three decades, despite “glass walls” – being hired in positions not leading to climbing the managerial ladder to the top – and “glass cliff” – being hired in the positions associated with increased failure risks (Ryan and Haslam, 2007; Basow, 2013). Nonetheless, men still outperform women in occupying, especially, upper-middle and senior management positions (Dezsö and Ross, 2012; Eddy and Sears, 2017). Over the years, an improvement has been noted in the way women are treated in workplace, but the glass walls have not yet been totally diminished (Mihail, 2006; Ryan and Haslam, 2007; Broadbridge and Hearn, 2008; Petraki-Kottis and Ventoura-Neokosmidis, 2011; Eddy and Sears, 2017).

There are several theories examining this phenomenon and specifically based on different relevant topics such as attribute women’s barriers, seizing managerial positions, inexperience, insufficient career opportunities, gender differences in socialization, psychological reasons (Schein, 1973, 1979, 2001, 2007; Kilian et al., 2005; Bac and Inci, 2010; Michelman, 2017). Alternative issues involve gender role and managerial personality characteristics stereotyping (Schein, 2001, 2007; Eagly and Carli, 2003; Bosner, 2008; Eddy and Sears, 2017).

In order to develop a sufficient understanding of the perceptual hurdles restraining women’s advancement towards climbing the managerial ladder, Schein (1973) introduced a 92-item index – Schein’s Descriptive Index (SDI) of human personality traits. The index was initially used towards enlightening genders’ perceptions of the personality characteristics of each other and the requisite managers’ personality characteristics. Subsequently and up to the present day, the SDI was used in quite a multitude of settings (Brenner et al., 1989; Schein et al., 1989; Orser, 1994; Dodge et al., 1995; De Pillis et al., 2008; Booysen and Nkomo, 2010) in researching Schein’s (1973) “think manager – think male” maxim. However, the majority of published studies on the subject reports findings from the protestant societies. Pursuing the investigation of gender role stereotyping across different cultures will supplement the current understanding on the topic, especially in view of certain “gender paradoxical” findings that have been reported. That is, gender role stereotyping and gender-related personality differences appear significantly wider in more gender-egalitarian cultures as compared to less egalitarian (Costa et al., 2001; McCrae et al., 2005).

The purpose of this study is to follow the research on gender role stereotyping and essential managers’ personality traits originated by Schein (1973) in Greece and not in in a protestant society that so far have hosted studies on the subject, as reported in the literature (Hofstede, 1980). Precisely, this study will examine the extent to which gender role and requisite personality characteristics of managers stereotyping exist in the contemporary Greek society.

The study adds to the literature on the gender role stereotyping research and perceptions of managerial personality characteristics, while the research on gender role stereotyping with evidence from Greece is scarce (e.g. Mihail, 2006). To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study, on evidence from Greece investigating the gender role stereotyping on the requisite management characteristics. The study unveils the lack of gender role stereotyping and significant similarity of personality traits across genders, both challenging, in the case of Greece, popular aphorisms such as the “think manager – think male”, “Old Boys Club,” etc.; even though the country’s cultural standing is not among the most gender-egalitarian across the globe (Hofstede, 1980).

Limitations of this study are certainly related to: drawing evidence from a convenience sample and surveying through the internet. However, attention was paid so that sampling bias was excluded to the greatest possible extent.

The structure of the study is as follows: the next section presents a literature review on gender role stereotyping and manager personality traits while the third section outlines the study’s methodological approach. The fourth section presents the data and the analytical results of the study while the fifth section discusses the study’s main findings. Finally, the sixth section summarizes the empirical findings, discusses the study’s implications and draws significant conclusions.

Literature review

Stereotyping “is seen as a normal cognitive process […] which represents reality in a simplified way to perform tasks including: group formation and identification, describing differences between groups, and helping to differentiate in-groups from out-groups” (Doug et al., 2006). Gender-related stereotyping, in particular, is related to gender role stereotypes, that is, presuming the personality attributes and behaviors as well as forming specific expectations for the behavior and abilities of individuals according to their gender (Hughes and Seta, 2003). Gender role stereotypes are contributing to the formation of social perceptions. For example, the capability or even suitability for certain working positions of each gender, or even the job of a manager in workplaces and the performance of associated duties are gender stereotyped.

Over the past decades, shifts in social attitudes, improvement of women education, consumption patterns, gender-egalitarian political practices and structural changes in the economy that increased the number of jobs in the tertiary sector led to an increased participation of women in the workforce, as a whole, and particularly in decision-making positions (Ayman et al., 2009; Brink et al., 2016). Nevertheless, the representation of women in the labor market is still lacking. Postulated GDP per capita losses due to underrepresentation of women in the labor market in the area between 5 percent (in USA) and 34 percent (in Egypt) across regions (Aguirre et al., 2012; Cuberes and Teignier, 2014).

Further, despite evidence on that companies’ performance is positively impacted by the increased numbers of women on board or senior management positions, women underrepresentation in managerial positions is even more noticeable (Wolfman, 2007; McKinsey, 2008; Dezsö and Ross, 2012; Grant Thornton, 2012; Sahoo and Lenka, 2016; Eddy and Sears, 2017). Among others, female managers are found to be more capable of addressing the demands of women-dominated markets, while the risk associated with the financial transactions conducted by female decision-makers is usually much reduced as compared to their male counterparts (Coates and Herbert, 2008; Basow, 2013).

The term that epitomizes the barriers women (and other minorities) face in attempting to climb the organizational ladder is the “glass ceiling”. It was brought to wide attention in 1986 as the title of a Wall Street Journal report (Hymowitz and Schellhardt, 1986). It describes “the unseen, yet unbreakable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements” (Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, 1995) and is used to describe the practices, prejudices, stereotypes, traditions and other similar factors that prevent women and other minority from occupying higher management positions (Ryan and Haslam, 2007; Broadbridge and Hearn, 2008; Vinkenburg et al., 2011; Petraki-Kottis and Ventoura-Neokosmidis, 2011). In the higher levels of management, the “glass ceiling” is more unbreakable (Oakley, 2000), while the size of companies is positively correlated to the number and effectiveness of barriers women facing in their professional advancement (Schein, 1973, 1979, 2001, 2007; Jogulu and Wood, 2006; Broadbridge and Hearn, 2008; Budzińska, 2010, Vinkenburg et al., 2011; Petraki-Kottis and Ventoura-Neokosmidis, 2011; Powell and Butterfield, 2015). Barriers in the professional development of women come as a combination of social perceptions about their “nature” and the need for compliance with the personality characteristics of managers, usually presented as “masculinized” (Orser, 1994). Even if women do occupy senior managerial positions they continue to face criticism and negative attitudes from the society and their colleagues (Ryan and Haslam, 2007; Powell and Butterfield, 2015).

There is ample evidence in the literature that the “glass ceiling” phenomenon is highly stereotypical. Quite a number of empirical studies, across countries, have dealt with gender role stereotyping and the degree of resemblance of masculine to feminine characteristics (Heilman, 2001; Booysen and Nkomo, 2010; Brescoll, 2016). Stereotyping is found to be significantly related to the requisite managers’ personality characteristics that are considered to be masculine (Willemsen, 2002; Ryan and Haslam, 2007; Michelman, 2017). It is suggested that the personality characteristics of men and women are different and that this prevents women from ascending beyond certain hierarchical levels (Schein, 1973, 1979, 2001, 2007; Schein et al., 1996; Heilman, 2001; Booysen and Nkomo, 2010; Brescoll, 2016). The general idea expressed in the literature is that not only the perceived requisite personality characteristics of successful managers are masculine but this perception is shared by both men and women (Wellington et al., 2003). Moreover, men significantly more than women identify their own personality characteristics to those perceived or successful managers (Powell et al., 2002).

As far back as the early 1970s, Schein (1973, 2001, 2007) introduced the “think manager – think male,” as she called it, a notion that is connected to the subsequently introduced “glass ceiling” concept. Schein (1973) initiated a research stream attempting to examine the phenomenon specifically from the gender role stereotyping view-point. In this course, she developed and introduced her 92-item index (SDI) of personality characteristics. At around the same time, Peters et al. (1974), recognizing the influence of stereotypes on subsequent discriminatory behavior towards women, developed the “Women as Managers Scale” that was designed to detect and assess stereotyping towards women as managers. In its original or in its enhanced: “Attitudes toward Women as Managers Scale” (Thomas and Kilmann, 1974, 2007) form, the scale was used in a series of empirical studies related to gender role stereotyping. This study follows Schein’s (1973, 2001, 2007) research trajectory providing a more solid benchmarking framework for its findings.

SDI is by no means beyond criticism. Terborg et al. (1977), for example, express the view that SDI is constructed to specially focus on middle management positions, and the personality characteristics going along with them, and is not a universal measure of the full range of attitudes toward women as managers. However, throughout the years, quite a number of studies have steadily followed Schein’s research trajectory, including SDI, to examine the existence and effects of gender role stereotyping in management (Schein, 1973; Ryan and Haslam, 2007; Booysen and Nkomo, 2010; Stoker et al., 2012).

Bosner (2008) used an SDI variation, to compare gender role stereotypes, about self, own gender and average man and woman, to perceived personality characteristics of successful managers. Both women and men were found to be subject to gender role stereotyping. Men had to be more assertive and emotionally stable than women who had to be more useful than men. A distinct finding of this study that Bosner (2008) interprets as indicating stereotyping was that most men and women in the sample rated their own capabilities significantly higher than those of their own or the opposite sex, on average. Bosner (2008) concludes that gender role stereotyping is a major obstacle standing in the way of both organizations, wanting to employ, promote and maintain a competent workforce, and individuals wanting to be employed and fairly rewarded. Regarding gender role stereotyping, Schein (2001) stresses the need to be diminished, as far as managerial positions are concerned, as well as the need for the development of legal and structural mechanisms that will protect women and provide them with the opportunity to progress hierarchically. She asserted that organizations and government regulators should work harder toward securing, to those women who do manage to occupy top management positions, the right to work in equal terms with their male counterparts (Schein, 2007). Booysen and Nkomo (2010) studied the “think manager – think male” phenomenon in South Africa, adding the race variable into the equation. They found that high correlation between perceptions of males’ and managers’ personality characteristics exist. Papalexandris and Bourantas (1991) attempted to correlate differences in attitudes toward women as managers in Greece with various respondents’ personal and organizational characteristics. They found that among personal characteristics, gender, age and interaction with women managers were found to be significantly correlated to attitudes toward women as managers. On the other hand, education and managerial experience were found to be insignificant as determinants. Terborg et al. (1977) found that while organizational data do not correlate with attitudes toward women as managers, respondents’ gender and education can predict such attitudes. Later on, Mihail (2006) found that the primary source of shaping respondents’ attitudes toward women as managers is their own gender and that other personal characteristics such as education, managerial experience, etc. do not have a measureable impact on stereotypic attitudes toward women in managerial positions.

The twin notion is dominant in the literature: that significant resemblance exists between masculine personality characteristics and the individualities that are appropriate for occupying a managerial position (Heilman, 2001; Powell et al., 2002; Duehr and Bono, 2006; Booysen and Nkomo, 2010) and that this perception is common for both men and women (Booysen and Nkomo, 2010).

Over the years, however, women’s view of a woman’s position in senior management has shifted (Schein et al., 1989; Brenner et al., 1989; Schein and Mueller, 1992; Schein, 2001; Eddy and Sears, 2017). In earlier studies, mainly on evidence from US samples, the findings unanimously proposed women’s belief that only men have the personality characteristics required in order to get an executive position (Schein, 1973, 1979). Over time, however, this almost consensual belief, among women, gradually gave way to the notion that both men and women do possess requisite managerial personality characteristics (Schein et al., 1989; Brenner et al., 1989; Schein and Mueller, 1992; Schein, 2001; Budzińska, 2010; Sahoo and Lenka, 2016). Orser (1994) using a sample of Canadian university students found that both men and women have the characteristics to hold a managerial position and these characteristics are more close to the characteristics of women than those of men.

Although women massively participate in the labor market (Mousourou, 2003; Eddy and Sears, 2017) and their participation rates in paid employment have increased steadily across countries (Grant Thornton, 2012), the “glass ceiling” phenomenon is still a fact, mainly on the grounds of gender role stereotyping, by both sexes, assigning difference characteristics and, hence, different job opportunities to each other (Heilman, 2001; Booysen and Nkomo, 2010; Eddy and Sears, 2017). This study will examine the existence of gender role and requisite personality characteristics of managers, stereotyping in the modern Greek society. On the grounds of existing literature already discussed, the following research hypotheses are tested:

H1.

Managers’ requisite personality characteristics are predominantly agentic (masculine).

H2.

Managers’ requisite personality characteristics perceived as more agentic by men as compared to women.

H3.

Own personality characteristics of men are predominantly agentic as compared to characteristics of women that are predominantly communal.

H4.

In terms of personality characteristics, men are seeing themselves more close to successful managers than women.

Methodology

Research setting

The study was conducted based on a sample of Greek informants. Gender equality in Greece is established in the Constitution, declaring that “The State shall arrange for the removal of inequalities existing in practice, in particular against women”, while the “General Secretariat of Gender Equality” of the Ministry of the Interior monitors the implementation of relevant constitutional requirements. Despite the egalitarian constitutional and legal framework, gender inequality reigns in the workplace as regards both labor force participation (58 percent of women against 79 percent of men) and unemployment rates (21 percent of adult women against 15 percent of adult men). In addition, although equal pay for equal work is constitutionally mandated, the female-to-male ratio of compensation for equal work is 65 percent as a result of low pay in the so-called “feminine” jobs. The female-to-male ratio in legislators, senior officials and managers is 34 percent, while in parliamentary seats 27 percent and in ministerial positions only 6 percent. Finally, Greece holds the 91st position, between 142 countries monitored, in the 2014 Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum (World Economic Forum, 2015).

Although in Greece, the number of women in managerial positions is increasing, they remain significantly underrepresented in upper-middle and senior management positions (Petraki-Kottis and Ventoura-Neokosmidis, 2011; Mihail, 2006; Alipradi - Maradou, 2008). However, Greece is not at the bottom of the list as regards women in top management positions. Greece’s 30 percent is just marginally lower than Germany’s 31 percent and higher than France’s 26 percent, Italy’s 24 percent, Spain’s 21 percent and Sweden’s 27 percent (Grant Thornton, 2014). However, the situation regarding board level positions is different. Women’s representation in the boards of the FTSE/ATHEX 20 index companies is as low as 7.9 percent significantly below the EU average of 15.8 percent, while no board chair or CEO position is held by women. At the same time, 82 percent of Greeks, against the European average of 75 percent, will favor pro-women legislation on the matter, under the condition of qualifications’ matching (European Commission, 2013).

Method

To allow for a solid benchmarking platform for its findings, this study adopted the methodology introduced in Schein’s (1973) original study and thereafter employed in several studies held across the globe.

Variables

The study’s variables are: “perceptions of successful managers’ personality characteristics” and “respondents’ personality characteristics”, both elicited through employing the SDI, a battery of 92 personality’ attributes, initially introduced by Schein (1973) in her attempt to test the theory that sex role stereotypes were obstructing women from climbing up the managerial hierarchy. Since its introduction, SDI has been repetitively employed to expose perceptions and evaluations of personality characteristics, in quite a number of research settings of managers, accountants, teachers, students, entrepreneurs, military personnel, leaders and further (Brenner et al., 1989; Schein et al., 1989, 1996; Schein and Mueller, 1992; Orser, 1994; Dodge et al., 1995; Stivers and Campbell, 1995; Tomkiewicz and Brenner, 1996; Deal and Stevenson, 1998; Schein, 2001; Powell et al., 2002; Boyce and Herd, 2003; Duehr and Bono, 2006; Gupta and Fernandez, 2009; Gupta et al., 2009; Booysen and Nkomo, 2010).

Survey

Data were collected in two concurrent stages from an, overall, n=404 convenience sample of adult men and women, divided into two sub-samples of n1=236 and n2=168 in Stages I and II, respectively. Eligible for the sample were adult individuals who, at the time of the survey, worked or had some prior working experience in either the private or public sector. Across the battery of the 92 SDI items, respondents of Sub-sample I provided their perceptions of successful managers’ personality characteristics while respondents of sub-sample II specified their own personality characteristics. Sub-samples I and II provided 134 (response rate: 67 percent) and 101 (response rate: 60 percent) usable responses. For studies following the interpretive and critical paradigms, non-random sampling is not an issue. In general, when generalizability is not the primary gοal, convenience sampling is considered appropriate (Calder et al., 1981; Croucher and Cronn-Mills, 2014).

Survey instruments

Stage I survey instrument comprised two parts: demographics and the SDI (Schein, 1973), while Stage II instrument comprised three parts: demographics, the SDI and a single final question appraising the respondents’ perceptions of whether they possessed the personality characteristics of a successful manager. With the exception of demographics, all items were rated in identical Likert scales anchored at 1=“not at all” and 7=“absolutely.” Both instruments were administered electronically (LimeSurvey) with personal e-mails inviting people to participate in the survey and subsequent reminders. Seven-point Likert scales are considered accurate in measuring respondent’s assessments especially in web surveys (Finstad, 2010). Scoring instructions across the SDI items were as follows:

  1. Stage I: “Your perceptions are sought of the personality characteristics of successful managers across the following battery of 92 items. Please rate each characteristic in terms of how typical you think it is of the personality of successful managers. Choose 7 if you think of a characteristic as absolutely typical or 1 if you think it is not at all typical. If your view is less adamant choose one of the grades in-between.”

  2. Stage II: “Your assessment is sought of the characteristics of your own personality across the following battery of 92 items. Please rate each characteristic in terms of how typical it is of your personality. Choose 7 if a characteristic is absolutely typical of your personality or 1 if it is not at all typical. If your view is less adamant choose one of the grades in-between.”

In Stage I, 57 males and 77 females provided usable responses. The respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to 65, 55 percent of them in the 31-45 age brackets, while their annual income mostly ranged below the €50,000 mark. In Stage II, usable responses were provided by 53 males and 48 females. The respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to 65, 55 percent of them in the 31-45 age brackets, while their annual income mostly ranged below the €50,000 mark. χ2 analysis provided no evidence of sampling bias between Stage I and Stage II sub-samples. The survey was conducted in Greek. Prior to being employed for data collection both instruments were piloted to control samples of 20 respondents each.

Data analysis

Characteristics of successful managers

Drawing from Gupta and Fernandez (2009), the first step of the analysis involved refining the SDI so that the personality characteristics of successful managers perceived by Stage I respondents are identified. Data were subjected to model α (Cronbach’s) reliability analysis. Items were kept for or excluded from further analysis on the grounds of the “α if item deleted” criterion. The analysis excluded 33 items, apparently those perceived by respondents as non-typical of the personality of successful managers, and resulted in a refined battery of 59 items (Table II). The α value for the refined scale was 0.93, indicating very high internal consistency.

Intraclass correlation (ICC)

The agreement of perceived successful managers’ characteristics between Stage I men and women was assessed by ICC analysis (Schein, 1973; Schein et al., 1996; Booysen and Nkomo, 2010). ICC can assess the relative correspondence and the absolute agreement of ratings. In this analysis, the rated classes were the 59 SDI items perceived by the respondents as successful managers’ personality characteristics, while the raters’ scores were the mean ratings of men and women across the 59 items. The ICC value reflects the proportion of total variance explained by the variance between ratings across items. It ranges from 0 to 1, where the more in agreement ratings are, the closer the ICC value to 1 tends to be (Schein et al., 1996, p. 36). In the context of this study, high ICC values would reflect high level of agreement between Stage I men and Stage I women. For the analysis, the two-way random effects model was selected implying that the two raters (Stage I men and Stage I women) comprise a random sample from a population of similar raters (in this case, samples of men and women). Under the same assumption, reliability was calculated from single measures. To account for systematic differences among rating levels the absolute agreement type of analysis was employed. Finally, ICC values were tested against 1, the value indicating absolute agreement between raters. The analysis output is indicated in Table I that follows.

The F-test revealed no significant deviation from 0.9999999 (the closest to 1 value that SPSS can accept as true test value) of the computed ICC value of 0.912.

Comparing mean ratings of men and women

In addition to the ICC analysis, independent samples t-test analysis was run to reveal possible significant differences (p=0.05) between mean ratings of men and women across individual battery. For 50 out of the 59 items, no significant differences existed. For the remaining nine characteristics (creative, intelligent, sophisticated, forceful, having analytical ability, intuitive, having humanitarian values, self-controlled and self-confident) women’s ratings were significantly higher than men’s (t-test analysis results reported in Table II). All η2 values calculated for these items (last column in Table II), however, indicate small to medium effect size (Cohen, 1988).

Own personality characteristic of Stage II men and women

Further analysis involved examining: the similarity of own personality characteristics between Stage II men and women respondents.

ICC

Across the same lines as for successful managers’ characteristics perceived by Stage I respondents, the resemblance of own personality characteristics between Stage II men and women was also assessed by ICC analysis (Schein, 1973; Schein et al., 1996; Booysen and Nkomo, 2010). The analysis output is indicated in Table III.

Although the resulted ICC value was not so high compared to the corresponding value of the Stage I analysis, the F-test also revealed no significant deviation from 0.9999999 (the closest to 1 that SPSS can accept as test true value).

Comparing mean ratings of Stage II men and women

t-test analysis of independent samples was also run to indicate possible significant differences (p=0.05) between mean ratings of men and women across the 59 items battery. For 51 out of the 59 items of the scale no significant differences existed. For the remaining eight personality characteristics (sympathetic, interested in own appearance, talkative, forceful, sociable, being aware of feelings of others, firm and prompt) women’s ratings were significantly higher than men’s (t-test analysis results are reported in Table IV). All η2 values calculated for these items (last column in Table IV), however, indicate small to medium effect size (Cohen, 1988).

Mean ratings of Stage II vs Stage I men and women

The analysis went on to compare, across the 59 items’ battery, own personality characteristics ratings provided by Stage II respondents against perceived successful managers’ personality characteristics by their Stage I counterparts. ICC coefficient analysis was employed in this respect. The analysis output is indicated in Table V that follows.

The results in Table V depict that:

  • Males (Stage II) vs males (Stage I) and females (Stage II) vs Females (Stage I) analyses produced significantly higher than zero (F-values=2.789 and 3.068, respectively. p=0.000) ICC values with no significant deviation between the two (F-value=0.862, p=0.660).

  • Males (Stage II) vs Females (Stage I) and Females (Stage II) vs Males (Stage I) analyses also produced significantly higher than zero (F-values=3.403 and 2.335, respectively, p=0.000 and 0.001, respectively) ICC values with no significant deviation between the two (F-value=1.132, p=0.360).

  • Males (Stage II) vs General (Stage I) and Females (Stage II) vs General (Stage I) analyses once more produced significantly higher than zero (F-values=3.223 and 2.787, respectively, p=0.000) ICC values with no significant deviation between the two (F-value=1.171, p=0.380).

Characteristics of successful managers across genders

Analysis went on to compare Stage II men and women mean scores on their perceptions of whether they possessed characteristics of successful managers. Although men’s mean score (4.38) proved higher than that of women (4.29), t-test analysis of independent samples revealed no statistically significant difference between the two (t=0.275, df=99, sig=0.784).

Discussion of results

Gender stereotypes that are dogmatic assumptions concerning the personality and behavioral individualities of human beings on the grounds of their gender (Cleveland et al., 2000; Michelman, 2017), are often leading to workplace discrimination (Dovidio and Hebl, 2005; Sahoo and Lenka, 2016). Typically, women are expected to exhibit communal characteristics such as: being concerned about the quality of life, the well-being and prosperity of others as well as being empathetic, caring, sensitive, supportive, and charitable. Men on the other hand, are expected to be more agentic and are typically described as being more forceful, authoritarian, assertive, belligerent, motivated, autonomous and self-confident (Brescoll, 2016).

As regards to the requisite personality traits of successful managers, it is agentic characteristics that have traditionally been linked to leadership and, therefore, to managerial roles (Eagly, 1987; Eagly and Karau, 2002; Brescoll, 2016). The “think manager – think male” maxim was introduced by Schein (1973) and since then it has been thoroughly researched. Reported findings (e.g. Heilman, 2001; Powell et al., 2002; Willemsen, 2002) almost unanimously, suggest that gender role stereotyping is the main antecedent and explanation of the glass ceiling phenomenon that women are encountering when trying to ascend the managerial ladder (e.g. Schein, 1973, 1979, 2001, 2007; Alvesson and Billing, 1997; Heilman, 2001; Eagly and Carli, 2003; Duehr and Bono, 2006; Powell and Butterfield, 2015). The prevalent notion is that to the extent that the managerial position is “male” in character, the requisite personality characteristics are usually held by men rather than by women (Schein, 2001, 2007; Sahoo and Lenka, 2016).

This study’s analytical results challenge several gender role stereotyping notions:

  1. H1. Managers’ requisite personality characteristics are predominantly agentic (masculine). The 59-item refined scale of perceived managers characteristics contains both agentic/masculine (adventurous, having leadership ability, creative, independent, persistent, vigorous, sophisticated, forceful, having analytical ability, having high need for autonomy, able to separate feelings from ideas, competent, objective, speedily recovering from emotional trauma, prompt, intuitive, knowing the way of the world, industrious, ambitious, not conceited about appearance, desiring responsibility, self-controlled, decisive, direct, self-confident, steady, assertive, feelings not easily hurt, dominant, logical, skilled in business matters, self-reliant) and communal/feminine (sympathetic, valuing pleasant surroundings, courteous, emotionally stable, interested in own appearance, having desire for friendship, cheerful, understanding, sociable, grateful, being aware of feelings of others, firm, having humanitarian values, reserved, modest, sentimental, tactful, helpful, generous, kind) characteristics (Eagly, 1987; Eagly and Karau, 2002; McCrae et al., 2005; Rahmani and Lavasani, 2012). Although the number of perceived agentic/masculine characteristics is higher than that of perceived communal/feminine characteristics this is not evidence enough to support H1.

  2. H2. Managers’ requisite personality characteristics perceived as more agentic by men as compared to women. Stage I male and female respondents’ perceptions of successful managers’ characteristics are in almost absolute agreement (ICC=0.912). As independent samples t-test analysis reveals, there exist certain differences between men and women’s perceptions of certain characteristics. Between these nine characteristics, however, there are both agentic (creative, forceful, self-controlled, self-confident) and communal (having humanitarian values). Related to these characteristics men’s rates were lower than the corresponding rates of women, which in fact leads to a paradoxical female rather than male stereotyping perception about the managers’ personality. Therefore, there is no evidence enough to support H2.

  3. H3. Own personality characteristics of men are predominantly agentic as compared to characteristics of women that are predominantly communal. Stage II male and female respondents’ own personality assessment is in almost absolute agreement (ICC=0.808). As independent samples t-test analysis reveals, there exist certain differences between men and women as regards their own personality characteristics. Between these nine characteristics, there are both agentic (creative, forceful, self-controlled, self-confident) and communal (having humanitarian values) ones. Related to these characteristics men’s rates were lower than the corresponding rates of women, which confirms the paradoxical female rather than male stereotyping, reported in the preceding paragraph. Therefore, there is no evidence enough to support H3.

  4. H4. In terms of personality characteristics men are seeing themselves more close to successful managers than women. This stereotypical notion is challenged by the study’s data analysis results. Pairwise ICC analyses results in Table V reveal no significant differences between men and women concerning their personality closeness to the perceived personality of successful managers. In addition, independent samples t-test analysis revealed no statistically significant difference between Stage II men and women concerning their perceptions of whether they possessed characteristics of successful managers.

Implications and conclusions

This study’s findings have implications for both academia and practice. As regards academia, the dominant in the literature “think manager – think male” stereotyping notion is directly challenged in the Greek context. As the results of this study indicating successful managers’ personality comprises both agentic/masculine and communal/feminine characteristics and is not perceived differently by men and women of the sample. This is applying to the relatively recent perception asserting that there is no difference between men and women in relation to management characteristics (Vecchio, 2002, 2007). Similarly, previous research indicates that the dynamic of “think manager – think male” has been impoverished over time for many reasons. One reason could be that the stereotypes of capable managers or the perceived management styles have changed in recent years (Basow, 2013). On the other side there could be a different explanation such as the possibility that, while male may not choose the “think manager – think male” option during a research, in the actual workplace settings men unconsciously favoring men employees in different manners and usually in not noticeable ways (Basow, 2013; Sahoo and Lenka, 2016).

However, a fact is that glass ceiling is a phenomenon that still exists (Powell and Butterfield, 2015). While women have managed to cliff to lower and middle levels of management, they are not yet presented equally at the upper levels of the organizations (Coder and Spiller, 2013). Therefore, this debates on whether the “glass ceiling” that women executives face when attempting to go up the ladder exists due to other determinants instead of gender stereotypes. Specifically there are different reasons related to this phenomenon at the individual or macro level. The individual level could be related to the individual gender stereotyping or to the absence of family and social support to women for pursuing management positions. At the organizational level, reasons could be the “negative” organizational culture or gender stereotyping of top management (Eddy and Sears, 2017). Therefore, while the perceptions on gender stereotyping may have changed in favor of women during the years, there are also several other external elements related to the external environment that impact the cliff of women to top management positions. All these macro and micro elements that are related to the glass ceiling are not stable. They are changing over time and modified. For this reason, it is important to examine those elements periodically and in different cultures in order to identify their effect and find ways to minimize their impact.

Further as Powell and Butterfield (2015) explain over the last years despite the various explanations given on this phenomenon, the glass ceiling is still stable. In practical terms, organizations and government policy makers should adopt practices fostering the development of leadership abilities of both men and women and eliminating gender diversity in the workplace (Schein, 2007). Educational efforts should be introduced in order to inform about sexism and how it affects workplaces settings in different ways (Basow, 2013). Further practices should be adopted by societies, organizations and important decision-makers for making the promotion process more fair and democratic (Powell and Butterfield, 2015). Finally, to the extent that societal gender role stereotyping norms and attitudes affect workplace conduct, further research, qualitative in nature, should attempt to reveal the underlying cause of gender workplace discrimination. The perceptions and the feelings of informants in relation to gender issues and stereotyping could be better examined through qualitative research methods.

This study’s findings also imply a cultural influence on gender role stereotyping. So far reported research findings, with very few notable exceptions (e.g. Booysen and Nkomo, 2010), rely on evidence from North America and Protestant Europe and this is the first attempt to examine the issue on evidence from a diverse cultural setting such as Greece paradigm. To the extent that leadership traits are reliant on culture (House et al., 2004), future research should attempt to establish differences in gender role stereotyping across cultures.

Sampling, questionnaire length and administration through the internet were certainly the limitations of the present study. Future research should address these limitations, especially the research instrument administration one. Lengthy questionnaires should better by administered through conducting personal interviews. The sample size should also be increased and a probability sampling strategy could be devised and implemented.

ICC analysis: successful managers’ characteristics (men vs women)

95% confidence interval F-test with true value: 0.9999999c
Intraclass correlationb Lower bound Upper bound value df1 df2 Sig
Single measures 0.912a 0.596 0.967 0.000 58 5 1.000

Notes: aThe estimator is the same, whether the interaction effect is present or not; btype a intraclass correlation coefficients using an absolute agreement definition; c0.9999999 is the closest to 1 value that SPSS can accept as input for the analysis. This table shows a two-way random effects model where both people effects and measures effects are random

Personality characteristics of successful managers

Descriptive statistics
Overall Men Women
Characteristic Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD t-value η2 value
Ε2. Consistent 6.70 0.66 6.65 0.61 6.74 0.70 −0.79
Ε4. Sympathetic 4.40 1.47 4.33 1.48 4.45 1.47 −0.47
Ε6. Adventurous 5.13 1.54 4.88 1.57 5.31 1.51 −1.62
Ε7. Having leadership ability 6.70 0.61 6.74 0.55 6.68 0.66 0.57
Ε8. Valuing pleasant surroundings 6.54 0.74 6.40 0.80 6.65 0.68 −1.92
Ε9. Neat 6.49 0.81 6.35 0.94 6.60 0.69 −1.75
Ε11. Creative 6.61 0.70 6.44 0.89 6.74 0.50 −2.31* 0.038
Ε14. Frank 6.03 1.21 5.82 1.39 6.18 1.04 −1.71
Ε15. Courteous 6.40 0.82 6.26 0.92 6.51 0.74 −1.70
Ε16. Emotionally stable 5.95 1.17 6.02 1.19 5.90 1.15 0.59
Ε18. Interested in own appearance 5.49 1.28 5.58 1.35 5.43 1.23 0.67
Ε19. Independent 5.67 1.34 5.54 1.52 5.77 1.19 −0.95
Ε20. Having desire for friendship 5.27 1.41 5.40 1.40 5.17 1.42 0.95
Ε22. Intelligent 6.31 1.12 6.02 1.32 6.52 0.90 −2.62** 0.049
Ε23. Persistent 6.13 1.06 6.04 1.12 6.21 1.02 −0.93
Ε24. Vigorous 6.55 0.91 6.42 0.94 6.65 0.87 −1.45
Ε26. Sophisticated 5.45 1.29 5.05 1.48 5.74 1.04 −3.15** 0.070
Ε27. Talkative 5.85 1.15 5.68 1.28 5.97 1.03 −1.45
Ε29. Forceful 6.43 0.83 6.23 0.93 6.57 0.72 −2.42* 0.042
Ε30. Having analytical ability 6.40 0.95 6.18 1.17 6.56 0.72 −2.35* 0.040
Ε33. Cheerful 5.32 1.37 5.09 1.47 5.49 1.28 −1.70
Ε34. Having high need for autonomy 4.87 1.48 4.72 1.52 4.99 1.46 −1.03
Ε35. Able to separate feelings from ideas 6.13 0.95 6.07 0.96 6.18 0.94 −0.67
Ε36. Competent 6.51 0.88 6.44 0.76 6.56 0.97 −0.78
Ε37. Understanding 5.86 1.38 5.79 1.41 5.91 1.37 −0.49
Ε39. Sociable 6.11 1.08 5.95 1.12 6.23 1.04 −1.52
Ε41. Having high self-regard 5.67 1.48 5.79 1.37 5.58 1.55 0.79
Ε42. Grateful 5.57 1.38 5.44 1.28 5.68 1.45 −0.98
Ε45. Being aware of feelings of others 5.91 1.35 5.84 1.39 5.96 1.32 −0.50
Ε47. Objective 6.43 1.04 6.40 0.94 6.45 1.11 −0.28
Ε48. Speedily recovering from emotional trauma 5.82 1.38 5.95 1.27 5.73 1.46 0.91
Ε50. Firm 6.30 0.94 6.19 1.01 6.38 0.89 −1.12
Ε51. Prompt 6.30 0.89 6.12 0.98 6.43 0.80 −1.98
Ε52. Intuitive 6.11 1.10 5.88 1.27 6.29 0.93 −2.06* 0.031
Ε53. Having humanitarian values 6.14 0.97 5.88 1.09 6.34 0.82 −2.79** 0.056
Ε54. Knowing the way of the world 6.30 1.23 6.23 1.28 6.35 1.19 −0.57
Ε57. Industrious 6.58 0.63 6.51 0.66 6.64 0.61 −1.16
Ε58. Well informed 6.57 0.98 6.61 0.49 6.53 1.23 0.47
Ε60. Reserved 4.07 1.73 4.07 1.72 4.08 1.75 −0.03
Ε61. Ambitious 5.75 1.27 5.82 1.00 5.70 1.43 0.59
Ε62. Not conceited about appearance 5.01 1.70 5.07 1.64 4.96 1.76 0.37
Ε66. Desiring responsibility 6.24 0.89 6.12 0.91 6.32 0.88 −1.30
Ε67. Self-controlled 6.48 0.80 6.26 0.95 6.64 0.63 −2.73** 0.053
Ε68. Modest 5.34 1.52 5.14 1.61 5.48 1.45 −1.28
Ε69. Decisive 6.53 0.86 6.46 0.91 6.58 0.83 −0.85
Ε71. Direct 5.99 1.10 5.84 1.08 6.09 1.10 −1.30
Ε74. Self-confident 6.34 0.95 6.14 1.06 6.49 0.84 −2.15* 0.034
Ε75. Sentimental 4.40 1.45 4.26 1.47 4.49 1.43 −0.91
Ε76. Steady 6.01 0.95 5.88 0.95 6.12 0.95 −1.45
Ε77. Assertive 5.57 1.37 5.63 1.41 5.52 1.35 0.47
Ε78. Feelings not easily hurt 5.07 1.39 5.14 1.41 5.01 1.39 0.52
Ε79. Dominant 6.04 1.08 5.96 1.09 6.09 1.08 −0.67
Ε80. Tactful 5.78 1.37 5.65 1.47 5.87 1.30 −0.92
Ε81. Helpful 5.78 1.41 5.63 1.43 5.90 1.38 −1.08
Ε84. Generous 5.40 1.35 5.33 1.27 5.44 1.42 −0.46
Ε86. Logical 6.49 0.91 6.30 1.03 6.62 0.78 −1.99
Ε87. Skilled in business matters 6.59 0.88 6.53 0.66 6.64 1.01 −0.72
Ε90. Kind 5.43 1.32 5.21 1.36 5.58 1.28 −1.63
Ε92. Self-reliant 5.90 1.05 5.86 1.04 5.94 1.07 −0.41

Notes: *p<0.05; **p<0.01

ICC analysis: respondents’ characteristics (men vs women)

95% confidence interval F-test with true value: 0.9999999c
Intraclass correlationb Lower bound Upper bound value df1 df2 Sig
Single measures 0.808a 0.595 0.900 0.000 58 14 1.000

Notes: aThe estimator is the same whether the interaction effect is present or not; btype a intraclass correlation coefficients using an absolute agreement definition; c0.9999999 is the closest to 1 that SPSS can accept as input for the analysis. This table shows a two-way random effects model where both people effects and measures effects are random

Personality characteristics of Stage II: men and women

Descriptive statistics
Overall Men Women
Characteristic Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD t-value η2 value
Ε2. Consistent 6.02 1.140 5.83 1.139 6.23 1.115 −1.775
Ε4. Sympathetic 5.46 1.368 5.06 1.350 5.90 1.259 −3.221** 0.064
Ε6. Adventurous 4.05 1.705 4.26 1.443 3.81 1.942 1.315
Ε7. Having leadership ability 4.91 1.715 5.09 1.632 4.71 1.798 1.131
Ε8. Valuing pleasant surroundings 6.56 0.853 6.47 0.749 6.67 0.953 −1.148
Ε9. Neat 5.88 1.291 5.83 1.189 5.94 1.405 −0.416
Ε11. Creative 5.83 1.114 5.81 1.039 5.85 1.203 −0.092
Ε14. Frank 6.11 1.139 6.11 0.993 6.10 1.292 0.040
Ε15. Courteous 6.08 1.065 6.08 0.978 6.08 1.164 −0.037
Ε16. Emotionally stable 5.26 1.707 5.17 1.661 5.35 1.768 −0.0540
Ε18. Interested in own appearance 5.05 1.452 4.77 1.436 5.35 1.422 −2.039* 0.027
Ε19. Independent 5.62 1.326 5.68 1.205 5.56 1.457 0.440
Ε20. Having desire for friendship 5.87 1.254 5.74 1.163 6.02 1.345 −1.142
Ε22. Intelligent 5.53 1.221 5.55 0.992 5.52 1.444 0.106
Ε23. Persistent 5.56 1.367 5.62 1.078 5.50 1.637 0.440
Ε24. Vigorous 5.90 1.072 5.74 1.041 6.08 1.088 −1.640
Ε26. Sophisticated 4.98 1.414 4.75 1.357 5.23 1.448 −1.700
Ε27. Talkative 5.29 1.571 4.87 1.641 5.75 1.361 −2.923** 0.053
Ε29. Forceful 5.75 1.144 5.51 1.012 6.02 1.229 −2.291* 0.033
Ε30. Having analytical ability 5.75 1.152 5.60 1.132 5.92 1.164 −1.369
Ε33. Cheerful 5.44 1.330 5.32 1.252 5.56 1.413 −0.912
Ε34. Having high need for autonomy 5.38 1.448 5.45 1.324 5.29 1.584 0.557
Ε35. Able to separate feelings from ideas 5.78 1.213 5.68 1.123 5.90 1.309 −0.895
Ε36. Competent 6.14 0.990 5.96 0.940 6.33 1.018 −1.905
Ε37. Understanding 6.03 1.109 5.94 0.969 6.13 1.248 −0.821
Ε39. Sociable 5.83 1.450 5.53 1.488 6.17 1.342 −2.255* 0.032
Ε41. Having high self-regard 5.09 1.497 4.96 1.441 5.23 1.561 −0.894
Ε42. Grateful 5.75 1.144 5.68 1.052 5.83 1.243 −0.674
Ε45. Being aware of feelings of others 5.50 1.309 5.25 1.270 5.79 1.304 −2.132* 0.029
Ε47. Objective 5.77 1.148 5.72 1.099 5.83 1.209 −0.507
Ε48. Speedily recovering from emotional trauma 4.62 1.843 4.49 1.938 4.77 1.741 −0.762
Ε50. Firm 5.68 1.140 5.40 1.132 6.00 1.072 −2.745* 0.047
Ε51. Prompt 5.44 1.244 5.15 1.246 5.75 1.176 −2.478* 0.039
Ε52. Intuitive 5.51 1.354 5.36 1.302 5.69 1.401 −1.223
Ε53. Having humanitarian values 6.00 1.077 5.89 1.031 6.13 1.123 −1.111
Ε54. Knowing the way of the world 5.12 1.451 5.11 1.476 5.13 1.438 −0.041
Ε57. Industrious 5.93 0.982 5.87 0.921 6.00 1.052 −0.673
Ε58. Well informed 5.50 1.213 5.47 1.234 5.52 1.203 −0.202
Ε60. Reserved 4.58 1.388 4.57 1.366 4.60 1.425 −0.137
Ε61. Ambitious 5.00 1.497 5.17 1.297 4.81 1.684 1.201
Ε62. Not conceited about appearance 4.86 1.800 4.79 1.758 4.94 1.861 −0.403
Ε66. Desiring responsibility 5.35 1.367 5.19 1.388 5.52 1.337 −1.225
Ε67. Self-controlled 5.48 1.301 5.32 1.312 5.65 1.280 −1.258
Ε68. Modest 4.94 1.310 4.94 1.200 4.94 1.435 0.022
Ε69. Decisive 5.61 1.249 5.53 1.339 5.71 1.148 −0.722
Ε71. Direct 5.82 1.330 5.74 1.361 5.92 1.302 −0.681
Ε74. Self-confident 5.41 1.430 5.34 1.386 5.48 1.487 −0.488
Ε75. Sentimental 5.58 1.321 5.49 1.310 5.69 1.339 −0.746
Ε76. Steady 5.55 1.237 5.57 1.118 5.54 1.368 0.098
Ε77. Assertive 5.21 1.472 5.19 1.468 5.23 1.491 −0.137
Ε78. Feelings not easily hurt 3.68 1.673 3.96 1.531 3.38 1.782 1.767
Ε79. Dominant 4.58 1.518 4.47 1.539 4.71 1.501 −0.781
Ε80. Tactful 5.47 1.254 5.43 1.217 5.50 1.305 −0.263
Ε81. Helpful 5.95 1.143 5.79 1.116 6.13 1.160 −1.468
Ε84. Generous 5.54 1.221 5.32 1.221 5.79 1.184 −1.963
Ε86. Logical 6.11 0.979 6.21 0.817 6.00 1.130 1.065
Ε87. Skilled in business matters 5.36 1.324 5.57 1.101 5.13 1.511 1.688
Ε90. Kind 5.82 1.043 5.70 0.932 5.96 1.148 −1.256
Ε92. Self-reliant 5.50 1.205 5.55 1.119 5.46 1.304 0.368

Notes: *p<0.05; **p<0.01

Intraclass correlation coefficients

95% confidence interval
Analysis ICC (single measures) Lower bound Upper bound
Males (Stage II) vs Males (Stage I) 0.306 −0.060 0.583
Females (Stage II) vs Females (Stage I) 0.355 −0.032 0.624
Males (Stage II) vs Females (Stage I) 0.285 −0.099 0.600
Females (Stage II) vs Males (Stage I) 0.334 0.060 0.556
Males (Stage II) vs General (Stage I) 0.298 −0.093 0.602
Females (Stage II) vs General (Stage I) 0.355 0.012 0.604

Notes: Absolute agreement, single measures, two-way random effects model

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Further reading

Paludi, E. (Ed.) (2013), Women and Management: Global Issues and Promising Solutions, Praeger, CA.

Supplementary materials

EMJB_13_1.pdf (5.5 MB)

Corresponding author

Georgia Sakka can be contacted at: geosakka@cytanet.com.cy