Putting Lipstick on the Management Debate

One of my favorite newspaper features is the New York Times’ “Corner Office” interview that appears every Sunday — in print and online.  The headline for the July 26 article, “No Doubts: Women are Better Managers” is a Q&A with Carol Smith, svp and chief brand officer of The Elle Group media company, in which she indeed claims that women rule (even though they don’t physically rule the corner office). To wit, she is quoted as saying: “Female bosses tend to be better managers, better advisers, mentors, rational thinkers. Men love to hear themselves talk.”  Smith concedes she’s generalizing but then goes on to say that in meetings led by men, she often arrives late, just in time for the sports banter to end and the real meeting to start (ouch!).  I sometimes have conversations with colleagues and friends where we delicately discuss gender in management roles and the consensus depends on the day, the particular crisis/situation and our general mood. I side with the feeling that a great manager is someone who listens, who is decisive but not stubborn, who get things done and leads his/her team to do the same.  A great manager, however, is not necessarily a great leader, but that’s another blog post.  Point is, while there might be wiring in our brains that leads females and males to act differently, to lead and manage in varying ways, to perpetuate the idea that women are better managers worries me a bit. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion and this is just Carol Smith’s POV, as told to NYT’s Adam Bryant — Mr. Adam Bryant. Fortunately, Public Relations is a field swimming with great female managers — and male ones. It’s less a conversation point than it was 14 years ago when I joined PR News. Surely, women are still not getting the corner offices like men do, but we need to steer the conversation away from gender and to results, from business performance to employee churn and morale.

What do you think — are women better managers than men?

– Diane Schwartz

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