Women Managers Winning in a Man’s World? Precedent Conditions for the Relative Over and Undervaluation of Female and Male-led Management Teams

Susan F. Cabrera,
Dr. Melissa C. Thomas-Hunt,
Stephen J. Sauer
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Consistent with status characteristics theory (Berger, Fisek, Norman, and Zelditch, 1977), which suggests that both men and women believe that women are generally less competent than men, substantial experimental and field research has demonstrated that in the workplace, identically qualified women are often evaluated more negatively than men (Ridgeway and Smith Lovin, 1999). One notable exception to this work is Heilman, Martell & Simon’s (1988) research showing that under certain conditions, women are overvalued relative to men; specifically when clear evidence of high performance is provided about women working within an extremely male-typed occupation. In the same study, when women were either working in a less male-typed occupation, or when clear evidence of high performance was lacking, women were either undervalued or equally valued relative to men.

Our research extends Heilman et al’s work by studying groups and teams working in the business world, and explores the conditions under which female-led management teams are over or undervalued relative to male-led management teams. In Study 1, participants were asked to predict the expected performance of a clearly experienced, high-performing three-person team managing a private equity fund. The private equity/venture capital industry is extremely male-dominated and -typed, with women representing only 9% of total industry professionals in 2000 (Brush, 2004). The gender composition of the team was varied across conditions by changing the first name of each team-member. As predicted and consistent with Heilman’s overvaluation findings, the two female-led management teams were evaluated significantly better than the two male-led management teams.

In Study 2, currently underway, participants are being asked to predict the future performance of a clearly experienced, high-performing three-person management team in the advertising industry. Because this industry is only moderately male-typed, we expect the female-led teams to be either undervalued or equally valued relative to the male-led teams.

Keywords: Gender, Status, Evaluation, Groups and Teams, Leadership
Stream: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Gender
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Susan F. Cabrera

Doctoral Student, Management and Organizations Group, Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY, USA

Susan F. Cabrera is currently pursuing a PhD in Management at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. Her research explores the dynamics of status and power within organizations and the unique challenges that women and minorities face in the business world. She is a frequent lecturer for executives in the areas of corporate finance, insurance investing and valuation, as well as a member of the Board of Directors of Ceres Group, Inc., a publicly traded insurance company. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, Susan was a Partner with Capital Z Financial Services Partners, L.P., a $1.85 billion private equity fund, served as an investment banker at Morgan Stanley & Co. and was a member of three public boards of directors. At the end of 2003, Susan retired from Wall Street in order to pursue a second career that would blend her interests in research, teaching and business. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and with Highest Distinction with a B.A. in economics and Asian studies from the University of Virginia. Susan is married and is a marathon runner, adventure traveler, and healthy gourmet cook.

Dr. Melissa C. Thomas-Hunt

Assistant Professor, Management and Organizations Group, Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY, USA

Professor Thomas-Hunt's research activities focus on the effects of status on the evaluation and integration of expertise within diverse groups. Her publications have appeared in Research on Organizational Behavior, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Management Science, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, and Research on Managing Groups and Teams. Professor Thomas-Hunt received her master's and doctoral degrees from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University.

Stephen J. Sauer

Doctoral Student, Management and Organizations, Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY, USA

Stephen Sauer is currently a PhD candidate in the Management & Organizations department at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. His research activities focus on issues of interdisciplinary and hierarchical team processes, diversity in organizations, and social decision making. Stephen obtained a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York and an M.B.A. with a concentration in Organizational Behavior from Cornell University. Prior to joining the PhD program, he served as an armored cavalry officer in the US Army, managed a plant in the clothing industry, and worked as an organizational change consultant with IBM Global Services. Stephen enjoys woodworking, learning about trains (and trucks and tractors and rocket ships) with his young son, gardening with his wife, and running.

Ref: I06P0069