Gender Differences in Leadership of a Financial Organisation Essay

More often than not, an executive meeting of a financial organisation will be dominated by the male population.  The penetration of the female population in the top management of financial organisations is seldom and in such cases, limited to management of human resources such as Organisation Planning and Design division.  In Meralco, a utility company, the number of female executives is very small relative to the male executives. In its first 70 years of operations, the number of its female employees is less than 10 and this just about represented 0.4% of its 2300 population (Rodrigo 2003).  During this period, these employees were only holding administrative functions.   Although this ratio may be justified since the operations of the company is not similar to that of financial organisations, it still is admittedly devastating.  This brings to our attention the question: “Does gender play a significant role in the success of leadership in financial organisations?”

Various literatures have already been published which analyses the differences in the characteristics of male and female.  In a study made by E-bay regarding the attitude towards risk and competition, it was “reconfirmed that women indicate being more risk averse and less competitive than men (Shellman 2005)”.  Although this literature only provides analysis in the context of “via Internet purchasing”, the general spending patterns may be likened to how men and women would react in the workplace.

Another literature mentioned that “There is also a great deal of evidence suggests that women are less likely than men to be successful entrepreneurs (Capt 1995)”.  If this were the case, does it mean that more financial organisations are consciously employing male executives over females due to the significant decision-making within the organisation’s remit, which employs a lot of risk to the company?

Another paper however suggested that the way a question is framed can take away the differences in financial risk aversion (Shubert 1999).  If on the other hand, this were the more valid finding, what does it mean to the financial organisations’ management? Does gender matter in the selection of employees that would be offered a seat in the hierarchy of an organisation due to the differences in leadership style? Or is the ratio of male to female employees only a product of the past discrimination in the work force?

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is promoting gender equality in the workplace.  ILO admits that due to various “gender specific constraints”, women are having difficulty penetrating the labour market (Capt 1995).  To alleviate this, the organisation is sponsoring development of micro-enterprises to promote women’s entrepreneurship.

Carol Nelson, President and CEO, is an executive of a successful financial organisation (Cascade Bank) with assets totaling 1.1 billion; and once, she commented that when she first started working, she was the only woman in her group.  Thus, with few women in an organisation, the chance of one of them eventually getting a higher level position also diminishes.

Currently however, women in the work force are no longer as underrepresented the way it used to.  With the governments’ attempts to enforce equality in gender, women are slowly climbing up the corporate ladder.  This, together with the other issues presented above, are the main points why a study in differences in leadership according to gender classification is being proposed.  This research proposal aims to evaluate the overall distribution of key positions in a financial organisation or if any misdistribution in the number of male employees against female employees exists in financial organisations.  It also aims to establish differences in the general leadership skills by gender classification. Further, this paper aims to develop a conclusion and assessment of the relevance of gender differences in leadership to the success of financial organisations.


The research aims to address the following key points in the study:

·         Are there gender differences in the leadership of financial organisations?

·         Are there differences in success levels of financial organisations in terms of leadership styles employed by executives classified according to gender?

·         Does gender matter in the selection of employees that would be offered a seat in the hierarchy of an organisation or is the ratio of male to female employees only a product of the past discrimination in the work force of companies?

·         If gender is an issue in the general employment process, what does it mean to financial organisations wherein critical risks are part of their daily operations?

·         Is the market for top-notch female employees undersized relative to the overall market for executives?


There are already a number of literatures published that are relevant to gender differences in leadership of organisations.  Some of these literatures include research studies, theses, and articles.

Before going into the analysis of differences in the leadership performances of males and females, let us first look at circumstantial factors that may have affected it.

A discussion on gender transition was made by World Bank and in 2002 published it.  This study aimed to analyse the transition of gender inequality in Central Asia and Europe. The relevant information that may be used in the differences in gender leadership of financial organisation mostly stem from the historical viewpoint this literature provides.  It discussed gender differences in terms of equity and efficiency.  For equity, male and female, provided a common wage rate and equal access to paid employment (i.e. given equality of opportunities) would most likely react in this manner (Paci 2002):

“the average women is more likely that the average man to prefer caring to productive activities; and some women are more likely to do so than others.”

Thus, using these statements as a basis, it seems like any inequality of outcomes is reasonable and fair.  For efficiency, biological differences provide for preferences to be established in this manner:

“the average woman more productive at caring activities than the average man and the average man more productive in paid activities, especially if involving physical strength.”

These result to efficiency requiring either of these outcomes:

“given a common wage rate, women specialize in caring activities and men in productive ones; in paid employment the average woman is paid less that the average man.”

 The conclusions derived from taking a closer look at the equity and efficiency outcomes are:

“Inequality of outcomes may be fair and efficient consequences of different preferences and biological differences across the sexes; but inequality of opportunities and unequal treatment is unfair and inefficient (gender discrimination).”

In the Introduction section, it was mentioned that although women executives exist alongside men, they usually handle positions in the management of human resources.  The gender transition study of World Bank affirms this in a way by identifying the average women as inclined to dealing with “caring” activities.

There are biological differences between male and female and this may contribute to the way they react or handle situations.  Aside from the physical differences however, is there really something more?  At some point, isn’t it possible that people’s leadership styles are more a product of how the public perceives the doer or the owner of the action? For example, men are naturally authoritative and may be viewed as cold and harsh at times and women generally are perceived as loving, caring and supportive.  Today, some gay people still keep their identity crisis a personal issue.  They hide it because of the natural perception that a male should act manly and a woman, womanly regardless if what they really feel lies somewhere in between. Thus, public perception may be playing a key role in gender differences, not only in leadership, but in many aspects as well.

A review of another literature is relevant to the issue discussed above.  Psychologist Janet Shibley Hyde, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, was interested in analysing the existence of so called “gender differences”.  For example, Hyde observed that when a test is conducted to study the behaviour of men and women, and anonymity of genders is put in place, the sexes tend to act reversely (Hyde 2005).  Men became passive, while women, on the other hand, put their feet forward and became the more aggressive ones (Hyde 2005).  Also, through the psychological variables Hyde used in her observation, she was able to come up with the gender similarities hypothesis that only few differences exist between genders.  One point is that men are more physically endowed in terms of strength and thus, could throw further (Hyde 2005).  But as to the other psychological variables examined, no significant differences exist.  This might support the inference presented in the preceding paragraph, that public perception may be a key issue in the gender differences in leadership.  Thus, this brings back the questions:  Do gender differences in leadership really exist or do differences partly result from public perception?

The cited literature opens our mind to the realities of the perception of the general public about the work place and why it is natural for a male to work and a female to stay home and attend to the more domestic chores.  Let us now delve into the core point of this paper which is the gender differences of leadership in financial organisations.

In another article, Men and Women at Work, communication is one of the differences highlighted.  Given a problem at hand, both man and woman would be able to resolve it but a man would follow his methods and a woman would attend to the work in a different manner.  But the important thing is that the work gets done (Annis & St. Onge).

Avery important information from the article is that both men and women react to corrections almost similarly.  As an example, “…when women take correction from men, they take it personally”.  On the other hand, when a man is corrected by a woman, he has a tendency to disregard what the other is saying and silently hopes that she stops talking so that the discussion could proceed (Annis & St. Onge).

In another literature, the study of leadership perception as to what makes a successful leader as perceived by executives, directors, managers, consultants and business owners bring some light into this.  The thesis “What makes a Successful Leader?” surveyed key people in organisations to get their perception as to what they think the qualities are that a leader should possess.

In the analysis of results using gender as the key factor, women ranked the following qualities more highly than men:  relationship building, people development and teamwork.  Although the males also rated these attributes rather highly, it is interesting to note that these “emotionally associated” traits are more valued by women.  Also, it was established that men included “achievement drive” as a very important attribute of a leader (Richmond, Rollin & Brown 2004) and this, though indirectly, supports the result of E-bay’s study which stated that generally, men are more competitive than women.

A very interesting inference can be derived from the result of this survey study.  Women rated strategic thinking as the highest quality they want a leader to possess. The previous citations from other research studies however indicated that women are more of the “caring” type.  Even a former co-employee of the successful President and CEO Carol Nelson referred to Nelson as “a good listener”; and that “A lot of times people just want someone to listen to them. By understanding what that person’s real concern is and doing something about it — that’s how you win people over”.  Note that once again, there is reference to people management albeit indirectly.  Thus, when two and two are summed up, it may be inferred that women at some level have acknowledgement that more males would be offered leadership positions.

This, however, is refuted by an article entitled Exploring Gender Differences in Leadership.  In this article, the following qualities of a leader such as cooperation, partnerships, win/win approach to problems, are new leadership styles which women dominated.  Consultant Barbara Annis further stated that “The days of pounding the table and being tough are gone.  Leading-edge companies are recognizing women’s more intuitive management and creative problem-solving skills as tools to increase the effectiveness of a team-based organization (Katherine).”

Another relevant commentary to this paper is the statement that Hubert St. Onge said, “What I have benefited from personally is that women at various points have said, just a minute, that is not working, and really confronted the situation in a very solid way (Annis & St. Onge).”

All of these citations highlight that in a previously male dominated world of finance, women are finally making their way up due to possession of attributes that may somehow be referred to as “caring in nature”.

The article further goes on to say that it is unfortunate that “…women’s failures in senior management ranks reinforced attitudes that women weren’t cut out for leadership, rather than provoking questions about the culture that predetermined their failure (Katherine).”  This attitude of bias is chauvinistic and conservative and this may be a factor hindering growth of women in the executive population.  It is a good thing though that a number of executives are open regarding their view of women’s performance in the work place, and compliment the way women work under their remit.  It’s as if the other side of leadership style is finally being utilised.

Let us take a look at the smallest form of organisation in the society, the family.  A natural balance of the presence of a man and woman is critical to the development of a conducive environment suitable to a child.  Although this may not be so relevant when viewed in relation with the company’s financials, we have to admit that the maternal instincts of women may play a great role because of their “different” leadership styles.  This characteristic has been pointed out earlier by referring to it as the women’s preference to “caring” jobs.  The financial organisations can only hope that this balance in male and female leadership is the key to a more successful financial venture.

The structural changes in organisations are being pointed out as a major factor why gender differences in leadership are being explored.  In today’s world where empowerment, trust, and self-directed teams are being valued by organisations, the old-school concept of thinking of men leaders may not find a good fit (Katherine).  Thus, the new leadership style is penetrating the work force. Differences are also not elusive in the manner of communication. “The way in which men and women manage and communicate is so fundamentally different that lack of awareness of the difference can result in confusion, animosity and disregard (Katherine).”

The articles, theses and prior research studies cited in this section demonstrated that gender differences do exist, although some gave affirmation to only a limited level such as the physical aspect.  On the other hand, the other materials pointed out that the differences are not only limited to that.  Differences extend to attributes such as communication style, preferences, risk-aversion, competitiveness, manner of thinking and a lot more which are all key factors in leadership of financial organisations.  If there are differences in these attributes, then certainly, there exist gender differences in the leadership of financial organisations; and this is what this research proposes to prove or disprove.


The research will make use of the epistemological methodology.  The use of this methodology will require comprehensive analysis of the results of the data collection tools that will be employed in this study.  Further, this methodology would bring about a more general approach on the way this study will be conducted.  Freedom as to the range and variety of questions will be supported by this methodology allowing for a more in depth in the analysis of the results of the study.

The data collection tool that will be used in this research is survey.  Survey will allow for a more structured set of questions and will provide for ample time to reconstruct and phrase questions to elicit better responses.  Interview was first thought of as the main data collection tool for this research.  However, if an interview were to be conducted, this will be time consuming and the interviewees will not have the liberty to respond to the questions at their own time.  Moreso, an interview may limit responses since an interview may not feel as anonymous as a survey.  Another method of collecting data is through group discussions, but this was crossed out because the sample population would include executives and scheduling the event may be a futile effort.

Another advantage of performing a survey is that the one conducting the survey will be able to limit the questions to closed-ended ones.  This type of question will be able to draw out more appropriate results to the study that will be conducted.  The survey will make use of the Likert-Type answer scale to allow respondents to choose from a spectrum of responses and to allow analysis of how strongly the respondent agrees or disagrees with the questions.

Some open-ended questions will be inserted in the questionnaire to confirm the truthfulness of responses to the closed-ended questions.  This will also test the accuracy and consistency of the responses of the sample population.  Lastly, the survey will provide for comments to enable respondents to add information which he/she may think necessary to draw a more valid conclusion.

The research will make use of stratified sampling and these are the sample populations that will be used in the conduct of this study:

50 executives of financial organisations (banks, insurance companies, other lending institutions)
150 employees directly working under the leadership of the executives
100 employees of financial organisations
50  human resources personnel

The executives are included as part of the sample population because their views on colleague performance is very critical in this study since they are the ones who are able to interact and exchange views with the executives belonging to the opposite gender.  The employees who are direct subordinates of the executives will also be included in the sample to be able to assess the survey results from a different angle.  The sample population will also include employees that do not have direct interaction with the executives of the financial organisations.  The inclusion of this population hopefully will provide for a more unbiased response to the survey questions.  Lastly, human resources personnel are chosen to be able to arrive at a more comprehensive analysis of the research.

Different set of questionnaires will be prepared for each strata of the sample population.  For example, a questionnaire intended to be sent to an executive will sound like this:

I can speak my thoughts freely during an executive/general meeting in the presence of co-executives belonging to the opposite sex.

                I tend to ignore the ideas presented by a co-executive/manager of the opposite sex.

On the other hand, a questionnaire intended to be sent to the subordinates of executives will sound like this:

            I prefer discussing my thoughts with a leader if we are of the same gender.

                A male leader does not welcome ideas coming from subordinates.

                Female leader are more sincere than male leaders.

                Male leaders are more analytical than female leaders.

A promise to send a copy of the study if desired will be included in the questionnaire to encourage responses from the sample population.

In determining the participants that would make up the sample population, an equal percentage of companies with gains and losses will be evaluated.  This will be able to supplement another key issue of this research, which is, gender being a factor to success of financial organisations.

The responses will be grouped according to its strata to draw out more specific conclusions.  An examination of the entire population will also be made to get a general outlook of the responses.  Further, sub-analysis of the sample population shall be made by gender, position in the organisation, age, number of years at work.  By doing this, the research hopes to offer a comprehensive take on the main research question.  The research results will also be analysed by employing statistical analysis techniques and results shall be presented in graphs and tables.


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