By Syed ASAD HUSSAIN
Senior Faculty Member Karachi
and Ms. SAIRA NAZNEEN IBRAHIM
Ph. D. Student SZABIST, Karachi
Apr 10 - 16, 2000
This article titled
"Women Executives and the Variables Contributing to their Success" probes into
areas that are of concern to all the professional people in the industry. The percentage
of women workers may not be very significant for the time being, when it comes to the
executive positions today, however, one cannot forget the changing needs and demands of
the new millennium.
With the growing demand of flexible and mobile business setups all over
the world, the required style of leadership is that of a "transactional" nature,
which is more commonly found in women than men. This style believes in asking,
interacting, creating an open culture and understanding human behaviour. Contrary to this
is the "transformational" style of leadership, which has been proved to be
successful so far in the huge and mechanistic structures of the organization. This style
prefers exercising strict control, display power and is more work or result oriented.
The results of the study, as you will read, clearly depict that after
the core requirement of competence and expertise, the most helpful variables have been
that of the transactional style. The surprising part in this study was that after the
transactional traits most of the women executives thought, understanding and playing
organizational politics was most important, and after that was apple-polishing and chance
factor ranked very highly. And the transformational traits were given least priority.
Does this mean that in our environment women are supposed to play
politics and develop contact in order to proceed in their careers? Despite being
competent, are they not expected to display power and authority, as men do?
Problem statement / Topic of study:
The topic under study is " Women executives and the variables
contributing to their success". Initially, it would highlight the activities and
skills possessed by the successful executives, taking help from the secondary data.
Secondly, it would probe into the practices of successful women
executives in a Pakistani work environment.
The objective of this research was to highlight:
Generally required skills to becoming an effective executive.
Women and their role in management.
The opportunities that the corporate environment provides to these
female executives and the changes that they might have witnessed over time.
The presence or absence of the required motivational tools and
equitable culture, that facilitates/ hinders the growth of women to the executive
The variables that have proved to be most successful for the women
executives working in the Pakistani corporate culture.
The research was divided into two distinct phases.
In the preliminary stage, an extensive literature survey was conducted
to find what effective executives really do. This library research constitutes a very
important section of the report. It has also helped determine a direction and provided a
base to work out variables for the primary research.
The next step was collection of primary data through a survey. A
tailored made questionnaire was provided to the respondents by fax/ email. The
questionnaire had 3 parts. First part consisted of 5 closed-ended questions probing into
the organization culture, the issue of upward mobility and fairness.
The second part of the questionnaire was that of the possible variables
that could have proved to be helpful in their success. The executives were asked to rank
these variables on a l-5 rating scale, according to the importance they attached to each
in their respective opinion.
The third part of the questionnaire design was that of open-ended
questions. The questions were aimed to collect views of successful women executives that
they would like to highlight in order to give the research more depth. And there could
also be some unique factors that they have experienced according to our local environment.
Initially, we were very optimist about the sample size, but when
actually tried to find the target audience for our research, it came to light that this
alone served as an eye opener. The number of female executives in small, medium and large
scale industry, including the local and multinational companies is extraordinarily low.
In certain big companies like Gillette Pakistan, it was surprising to
find NO female executives work at the top levels of management. Thus an idealistic figure
had to be brought down to 30 women executives. It needs to be mentioned here that most of
the respondents were very keen to help and were also interested in knowing the findings of
The women executives surveyed belonged to varied fields like, oil and
gas, banking and financial intermediaries, education and textiles, research and
consultancy firms. The varied areas were selected so that the results are not biased to a
Women Executives, and their role in management:
Organizations need talented women in their core jobs, therefore, not
only for reasons of social fairness, important though that is, but because many of those
women will have the kind of attitudes and attributes that the new flat flexible
organizations need. If they screen out the women they will handicap their future- Charles
l948 was the first year that women were permitted to attend Oxford
University. But such progress late in coming in the academic world as it was
has not been matched in the management world. Women were not allowed into the Stock
Exchange, for example, until as late at the 1970s. Too rough, my friend', explained one
man, interviewed at the time, saying that there was too much shoving and pushing on the
floor of the Stock Exchange and that the 'fair and fragile sex would be trampled
The obstacles to women taking their rightful places in the running of
business and industry are still formidable and, some would argue, growing more
intractable. The realignment of power needed to change the position of women in the
working world is only gradually beginning to inch forward and may not make appreciable
gains before the millennium.
If the radical re-engineering of companies continues to reshape them
into small teams more responsive to customers, more sensitive to people and more in touch
with their global markets, the need for women managers should grow exponentially. Already,
management experts on both sides of the Atlantic are claiming that the management style of
women better fits the demands of new organizations than their male counterparts.
Management guru Charles Handy puts it forcefully:
For these jobs the organizations want quality people, well educated,
well skilled and adaptable. They also want people who can juggle with several tasks and
assignments at one time, who are more interested in making things happen, than in what
title or office they hold, more concerned with power and influence than status. They want
people who value instinct and intuition, as well as analysis and rationality, who can be
tough but also tender, focused but friendly, people who can cope with these necessary
contradictions. They want, therefore, as many women as they can get.
If the above statements are to be taken as the gist of strong secondary
research, then why are there so few women in senior management positions? Why, despite a
significant increase in women's employment in management in Europe and the United States
over the last 20 years, and notwithstanding equal opportunities and affirmative action
legislation, has little or nothing changed? Is it because women are less ambitious, less
committed, less educated or less willing to pay the costs that go with senior posts, or is
it because those who hold the gate-keeping positions are determined to ward off any
possible breeches in the barriers to the top? Whether conscious or not, considered or
coincidental, women in management are experiencing more discrimination and, far from the
ceiling being constructed of glass, it is increasingly more like reinforced concrete.
To begin with let us understand what are the skills, behaviours and
qualities of effective managers? The first stage is to draw up a list of the knowledge,
skills, qualities, and experience required for the job. Clearly you need to know exactly
what you want to measure, before measuring it. If we were to focus on the skills and
qualities of a senior manager, one source of information might be articles and books on
The problem here is that almost all research on management and
leadership has been conducted on totally male or predominantly male groups of managers.
This would not be a matter for concern if there were no evidence that women and men, on
average, behave similarly in a managerial role. However, there have been several important
research studies over the last few years investigating the nature of leadership, which
have found that this not to be the case.
The need for constant adaptability means that managers must see that
their major responsibility should be the encouragement and support of growth. Managers
are, or at least should be, in the development business. If the latest research is to be
believed, this is less likely to happen if men dominate senior management.
In a United States study of male and female leaders, Rosener found that
men's preferred style of management, described as 'transactional leadership', is concerned
with exchanging rewards and punishments for performance. Men were also more likely to use
power that comes from their organizational position. Women behaved very differently. They
preferred to use a 'transformational' or 'interactive leadership' style that encourages
participation, the sharing of power and information and the creation of situations that
contribute to people feeling good about themselves. Unlike the men, who wanted to guard
their information, women shared it and preferred to seek solutions from staff rather than
behaving as though they were 'experts'. Women were also much more likely to admit that
they did not have all the answers and to seek criticism, both of which appear, generally
speaking, to be unusual behaviours for men.
These findings are particularly important since, in research conducted
in a wide variety of organizations, including industry, the military, education, and
health care, the use of a transformation style has resulted in staff who show the highest
effort, performance and job satisfaction. 'Transformation style' has also been found to
relate strongly to organizational morale, team cohesion, commitment, and team and
organizational measures of success.
These findings indicate a potential gender bias in the first stage of
assessment, because they imply that one is more likely to come up with descriptions of
'transactional leadership' if one refers to past descriptions of leadership behaviour in
textbooks since they were based on studies of men as leaders. Furthermore, given that the
commonly adopted method of identifying 'What it is that you are looking for in a
manager?', is to ask the opinions of senior managers, 95 per cent of whom are men, it is
not surprising that the criteria given describe the male model of transactional
Thus, there appears to be ample support for concern regarding the
gender bias in the first stage of assessment and, then trying to find as to what qualities
or variables have led to the success of Pakistani executives and how can this gender bias
Closed ended questions:
In this section, there were 5 questions relating to the working
environment and work behaviour in the corporate setting. Following is the statistical
analysis of the questions we asked.
Q.1 The corporate environment and your present
A. The environment has not been a major factor 47%
B. Facilitating and helpful 37%
C. Hindering and Damaging 16%
Q.2 The opportunities towards upward mobility and
growth in your area were:
A. Numerous, difficult to select from 3%
B. Few good ones present 67%
C. None were available, had to create 30%
Q.3 Decisions for promotability to an executive
In your industry is:
A. Always gender biased 0
B. Most of the time gender biased 54%
C. Sometimes gender biased 46%
D. Never gender biased 0
Q.4 How often decisions about hiring and promotions in
your organization are based on merit?
A. All the time 20%
B. Most of the time 43%
C. Sometimes 30%
D. Never 7%
Q.5 The trend about hiring and promoting women
executive positions in Pakistan over the years:
A. Drastically improved 20%
B. Been slow, but steadily improving 54%
C. Insignificant growth 20%
D. Been discouraged 6%
Variables evaluation on the rating scale:
This section consisted of 20 variables that were selected after
studying the secondary data, pertaining to different sources. The variables were then
grouped into 5 areas for analysis, namely:
2) Transactional traits
3) Transformational traits
4) Organizational politics
This was done to compare the Management styles of the women executives
as transformational or transactional, and then to further analyze that which one in our
industry has been proved to be more successful.
The other areas like organizational politics covered the variables of
understanding and playing organizational politics. Last but not the least, variables like,
developing contacts with the higher authorities, apple-polishing, and chance were grouped
into the title of apple-polishing.
It was indeed interesting to find that after taking out the weighted
average mean of the ranking of the responses, it could easily be concluded that after
Expertise, the Transformational traits in the women executives have proved to be most
successful. The third important area was understanding and playing organizational
politics. Fourth position in importance was given to apple polishing collectively, and the
least important factor was the transactional traits.
This proves that abilities like, power, aggression; result oriented
behaviour were not helpful variables when it came to women executives and their mobility.
The open ended questions:
The replies to the questions asking for the strengths of the women
executives were interesting. It was revealed that the following qualities are considered
Better emotional stability
Generally more organized and planned
Weighted average mean of ranking
Banking / no of
mean of the ranking
weaknesses were pointed out to be:
Difficult to pursue long working hours
Imbalance between family and work life
Lack of mobility to any other part of the country
History of women not taking work as first priority
The sense of insecurity in men, that creates unnecessary
Difficulty to handle gender bias
The study suggests that there are certain activities that are to be
taken up by all executives, irrespective of their gender, however, the styles of
performance in each case differ drastically. Females tend to be more successful with the
transactional style and male seem to be more fond of the transformational style.
However, keeping in mind the responses of the successful respondents
and studying the working styles of the male executives, it can be stated that although
they belong to different genders, but in a professional environment what is required as
most important is the Expertise in their given area.