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Cultural Constraints on the Emergence of Women Leaders: How Global Leaders Can Promote Women in Different Cultures

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Abstract

‘‘This is really still a nightmare — a German nightmare,’’ asserted Mechtilde Maier, Deutsche Telekom’s head of diversity. A multinational company with offices in about 50 countries, Deutsche Telekom is struggling at German headquarters to bring women into its leadership ranks. It is a startling result; at headquarters, one might expect the greatest degree of compliance to commands on high. With only 13% of its leadership positions represented by women, the headquarters is lagging far behind its offices outside Germany, which average 24%. Even progress has been glacial, with an improvement of a mere 0.5% since 2010 versus a 4% increase among its foreign subsidiaries. The phenomenon at Deutsche Telekom reflects a broader pattern, one that manifests in other organizations, in other nations, and in the highest reaches of leadership, including the boardroom. According to the Deloitte Global Centre for Corporate Governance, only about 12% of boardroom seats in the United States are held by women and less than 10% in the United Kingdom (9%), China (8.5%), and India (5%). In stark contrast, these rates are 2—3 times higher in Bulgaria (30%) and Norway (approximately 40%). Organizations are clearly successful in some nations more than others in promoting women to leadership ranks, but why? Instead of a culture’s wealth, values, or practices, our own research concludes that the emergence of women as leaders can be explained in part by a culture’s tightness. Cultural tightness refers to the degree to which a culture has strong norms and low tolerance for deviance. In a tight culture, people might be arrested for spitting, chewing gum, or jaywalking. In loose cultures, although the same behaviors may be met with disapproving glances or fines, they are not sanctioned to the same degree nor are they necessarily seen as taboo. We discovered that women are more likely to emerge as leaders in loose than tight cultures, but with an important exception. Women can emerge as leaders in tight cultures too. Our discoveries highlight that, to promote women to leadership positions, global leaders need to employ strategies that are compatible with the culture’s tightness. Before presenting our findings and their implications, we first discuss the process by which leaders tend to emerge.

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When examining the literature of cross-cultural field holistically, it can be seen that the dominant paradigm in the literature is based on values. However, in recent decades there have been growing criticisms against values in explaining cultural differences adequately and thus a new cultural dimension, the so called “tightness–looseness” has, once again, come to the forefront. The beginning point of this research is based on the assumption that cultural tightness–looseness, defined as strength, importance, pervasive and binding of norms within a certain community, which was previously examined on a societal level, might also have significant implications within organizations. In this regard, the ultimate objective of the research is to examine the validity and reliability of the construct in Turkish and Italian marble industries using a comparative approach, while considering the cultural dimension of tightness–looseness at an organizational level and aiming to explore its relationship with organizational innovativeness empirically. The survey method has therefore been adopted. The results and implications of the study are discussed in greater detail and recommendations for future studies made.
Cultural constraints on the emergence of women as leaders 604—611) For more information on cross-national differences in culture, see recent scientific publications byDifferences between tight and loose cul-tures: A 33-nation study
  • Gelfand
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY The article builds on previous research published by Soo Min Toh and Geoffrey Leonardelli (''Cultural constraints on the emergence of women as leaders'', Journal of World Business, 2012, 47, 604—611). For more information on cross-national differences in culture, see recent scientific publications by Gelfand et al. (''Differences between tight and loose cul-tures: A 33-nation study'', Science, 2011, 332(6033), 1100— 1104) and by House et al. (Culture, leadership, and organi-zations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies, 2004, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage).
Women in the boardroom: A global perspective) and Catalyst's 2011 research report
  • Deloitte Global
  • Centre For Corporate Governance
Deloitte Global Centre for Corporate Governance ( " Women in the boardroom: A global perspective ", November 2011) and Catalyst's 2011 research report ( " Women on boards, " http://www.catalyst.org/).
Deutsche Telekom Struggles with Gender Goal The interview with Phyllis Yaffe and other women executives on the use of gender quotas may be found in Janet McFarland's article in the Globe and Mail ( " Glacial progress of women on Canada's boards prompts calls for reform
  • York Times
York Times ( " Deutsche Telekom Struggles with Gender Goal ", October 2, 2011). The interview with Phyllis Yaffe and other women executives on the use of gender quotas may be found in Janet McFarland's article in the Globe and Mail ( " Glacial progress of women on Canada's boards prompts calls for reform ", November 26, 2012) Cultural Constraints on the Emergence of Women Leaders 25
Her research has been published in major academic and practitioner journals in the disciplines of management and psychology, and frequently featured in the media such as the New York Times, Reuters, FT.com, Estada (Brazil), and The Times (UK). (Add.: 3359 Mississauga Rd N
  • Toh Soo Min
Soo Min Toh (Ph.D. in Management, Texas A&M University) is an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto's Department of Management at Mississauga and the Rotman School of Management. Her research focuses on the role of culture in women leader emergence, expatriate/immigrant adjustment, workplace aggression, and knowledge transfer. Her international work and experience has produced insight into cultures including Oman, US, Canada, India, and Singapore. Her research has been published in major academic and practitioner journals in the disciplines of management and psychology, and frequently featured in the media such as the New York Times, Reuters, FT.com, Estada (Brazil), and The Times (UK). (Add.: 3359 Mississauga Rd N, Mississauga ON L5L 1C6, Canada; e-mail: soomin.toh@utoronto.ca)
For more information on cross-national differences in culture, see recent scientific publications by Gelfand et al. (''Differences between tight and loose cultures: A 33-nation study
  • Geoffrey Leonardelli
Geoffrey Leonardelli (''Cultural constraints on the emergence of women as leaders'', Journal of World Business, 2012, 47, 604-611). For more information on cross-national differences in culture, see recent scientific publications by Gelfand et al. (''Differences between tight and loose cultures: A 33-nation study'', Science, 2011, 332(6033), 1100-
For more information on leader and self-categorization processes, see work by Robert Lord and Karen Maher (Leadership and information processing: Linking perceptions and performance, 1991, Routledge), and for the connection between gender and leadership, see work by Alice Eagly (with V
  • By House
and by House et al. (Culture, leadership, and organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies, 2004, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage). this topic, we recommend books by Harvard anthropologist Richard Wrangham (Catching fire: How cooking made us human, 2009, New York: Basic Books), Dutch social psychologist Mark van Vugt (co-authored with Ahuja, Selected: Why some people lead, why others follow, and why it matters, 2011, Random House Canada), as well as research by Alice Eagly and others on gender and leadership (see below for more details). For more information on leader and self-categorization processes, see work by Robert Lord and Karen Maher (Leadership and information processing: Linking perceptions and performance, 1991, Routledge), and for the connection between gender and leadership, see work by Alice Eagly (with V.J. Steffen, ''Gender stereotypes stem from the distribution of women and men into social roles,'' Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1984, 46, 735-754; with A.B. Diekman, ''Stereotypes as dynamic constructs: Women and men of the past, present, and future,'' Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2000, 26, 1171-1188), Amy Beth Gershenoff and Roseanne J. Foti (''Leader emergence and gender roles in all-female groups: A contextual examination,'' Small Group Research, 34, 2003, 170-196), Barbara A. Ritter and Janice D. Yoder (''Gender differences in leader emergence persist even for agentic women: A confirmation of role congruity theory,'' Psychology of Women Quarterly, 28, 2004, 187-193), and by Nilanjana Dasgupta and Shaki Asgari (''Seeing is believing: Exposure to counterstereotypic women leaders and its effect on the malleability of automatic gender stereotyping,'' Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40, 642-658). For statistical sources for women leader emergence on corporate boards, see Deloitte Global Centre for Corporate Governance (''Women in the boardroom: A global perspective'', November 2011) and Catalyst's 2011 research report (''Women on boards,'' http://www.catalyst.org/). For more information on Deutsche Telekom, see Nicola Clark's article in the New York Times (''Deutsche Telekom Struggles with Gender Goal'', October 2, 2011and Mail (''Glacial progress of women on Canada's boards prompts calls for reform'', November 26,
Geoff has been featured in media outlets internationally, and his research was included in the 2008 New York Times Year in Ideas. He has held visiting appointments at the University of Amsterdam
Associate Professor at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management and Department of Psychology. His research targets team dynamics, negotiator effectiveness, and leadership, with some emphasis on international relations. His work has been published in the Journal of World Business, Psychological Science, and Academy of Management Perspectives, and he serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Geoff has been featured in media outlets internationally, and his research was included in the 2008 New York Times Year in Ideas. He has held visiting appointments at the University of Amsterdam (1999), Kellogg School of Management (2002-2004), and University of Queensland (2011). (Add.: 105 St. George St, Toronto ON M5S 3E6, Canada; e-mail: geoffrey.leonardelli@rotman.utoronto.ca)
For more information on cross-national differences in culture, see recent scientific publications by
  • Leonardelli
Leonardelli ("Cultural constraints on the emergence of women as leaders", Journal of World Business, 2012, 47, 604-611). For more information on cross-national differences in culture, see recent scientific publications by Gelfand et al. ("Differences between tight and loose cultures: A 33-nation study", Science, 2011, 332(6033), 1100-1104) and by
Leader emergence and gender roles in all-female groups: A contextual examination
Psychology Bulletin, 2000, 26, 1171-1188), Amy Beth Gershenoff and Roseanne J. Foti ("Leader emergence and gender roles in all-female groups: A contextual examination,"
Seeing is believing: Exposure to counterstereotypic women leaders and its effect on the malleability of automatic gender stereotyping
  • A Barbara
  • Janice D Ritter
  • Yoder
Small Group Research, 34, 2003, 170-196), Barbara A. Ritter and Janice D. Yoder ("Gender differences in leader emergence persist even for agentic women: A confirmation of role congruity theory," Psychology of Women Quarterly, 28, 2004, 187-193), and by Nilanjana Dasgupta and Shaki Asgari ("Seeing is believing: Exposure to counterstereotypic women leaders and its effect on the malleability of automatic gender stereotyping," Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40, 642-658).