Vast majority of people want to work with women but not for women, finds survey

Author: Kate Whitehead | Date: 9 Nov 2016

”Even though diversity means good business, there is an element of lip service”, says co-founder of Women’s Directorship Programme

The role of gender in the workplace is a hot topic, and the latest Randstad Work Monitor Survey yielded some interesting findings. In particular, while the majority of people prefer to work in a mixed gender team, most would also prefer to have a male manager.
At first glance, this may seem contradictory, but those familiar with the issue of gender diversity in the workplace are not surprised. First up, the compelling evidence provided by the likes of McKinsey & Company that diverse teams improve decision-making and financial performance has been widely accepted.
“Even though there is an acceptance that diversity means good business, there is an element of lip service, a little bit of tokenism. Local organisations need to embrace diversity whole-heartedly and help the work move forward,” said Kirti Lad, a director of Harvey Nash APAC and co-founder of the Women’s Directorship Programme.
Lad said that although cultural initiatives like gender diversity should be led from the top, the reality is that senior managers often have strong biases and are set in their work culture. She sees a lot of senior executives “ticking boxes” because they know diversity is the right thing to do, but not following through, she said.
“Few employers will say this [gender diversity] isn’t important. How it then filters down varies massively according to the organisation, the people and where they live. We have to keep putting forward role models. It’s all well and good to say we want more women, but they have to make themselves visible and get themselves known,” said Lad.
Shalini Mahtani is the co-founder of The Zubin Foundation, a charity committed to equality and the betterment of Hong Kong. She was part of a team that interviewed women for a report on women leaders and another on a gender diversity benchmark for Asia. They found that much of the time women prefer to work for men.
“It’s not uncommon to hear women say that working for a female boss is harder because they are perfectionists,” said Mahtani.
She said that when she asks women about their mentors and role models they are often men, not women. “There is often the assumption that it’s women who champion women, but often it’s a man who champions and supports her,” she said.
Mahtani believes there is a long-standing school of thought that women need to change to be more like men, but the reality is that women are judged differently. For example, if a man and a woman say the same thing with the same tone, the man is seen as assertive and the woman is seen as aggressive.
She said that with more diversity in the workplace, women will be better able to be their authentic selves. A sole woman on a board, for example, currently feels compelled to try to fit in more and is less likely to be her true self.
“If there are three or four women on the board, then there is more gender balance on the team and they are more comfortable being themselves,” said Mahtani.
The report found the preference across Asia for male managers was high with Japan top (80 per cent), followed by Hong Kong (78 per cent), Singapore (76 per cent), Malaysia (73 per cent) and China (69 per cent). The global average was 65 percent.
Lad is confident that the tide is turning and that millennials and those due to enter the workforce soon will create a change.