Women in Leadership Positions in the People's Republic of China

Challenges, Trends and Opportunities

Master's Thesis, 2012

172 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Contents

Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Tables

List of Abbreviations

1. Introduction

2. Understanding of Leadership
2.1 Definitions of Leadership
2.2 Western Leadership Theories
2.3 New Leadership theories
2.4 Chinese Leadership Theories
2.5 Cultural Differences between Western and Chinese Leadership Paradigms
2.6 Conceptual Delineation of Management and Leadership

3. Women in Managerial Leadership
3.1 Changes in Western and Chinese society
3.2 Feminist Leadership Theories
3.3 Women’s Visible and Invisible Impediments to the Top
3.4 Educational Advancement of Chinese and German Women
3.5 The Impact of Gender Diversity
3.5.1 Women’s Labor Participation
3.5.2 Gender payment gaps
3.6 Personality Traits, Intelligence and Skills as Leadership Predictors
3.6.1 The Big Five Personality Traits
3.6.2 Cultural Influence on Personality Traits
3.6.3 Intelligence in the Context of Leadership Emergence
3.7 Gender differences in Personality Traits and Intelligence

4. Research Model
4.1 Hypothesis and Research Questions
4.2 Research Methodology
4.3 Data Collection

5. Results

6. Discussion
6.1 Conclusions
6.2 Recommendations



List of Figures

Figure 1: Leader-traits

Figure 2: Management skills necessary at various levels of an organization

Figure 3: Three components of the skills model

Figure 4: The full range of leadership

Figure 5: Confucian hierarchy model

Figure 6: Skills and management levels

Figure 7: Women’s perceived barriers in advancing a leadership position

Figure 8: Losses along the corporate pipeline

Figure 9: Women on the boards of management, Fortune 500 USA

Figure 10: Women on the boards of management 2003-2012 in Europe

Figure 11: Men and women presidents/chairpersons of large companies, EU-27 2003-2012

Figure 12: Variations in the proportion of women in top positions across Asia

Figure 13: Trends in the ratio of female median earnings to male median earnings, 1986, 1996, 2008

Figure 14: The Big Five personality traits

Figure 15: Stepwise regression results of the Big Five Traits and Hofstede’s four culture scores

Figure 16: Geert Hofstede's cultural dimensions: Comparison of China and Germany

Figure 17: Research Model on Women in Leadership Positions

Figure 18: Proportion of industry sectors of participating companies

Figure 19: Regional distribution of company-headquarters

Figure 20: Coded means of number of women on the boards

Figure 21: Number of full-time and part-time employed women

Figure 22: Share of women on the board of participating companies

Figure 23: Compared of share of women in lower and middle management

Figure 24: Promotion of employees in the next six months

Figure 25: Promotion of men and women into Top Management in the next six month

Figure 26: Preferred gender for Top Management promotions

Figure 27: Stated reasons for preferred gender

Figure 28: Company statements on special training offer for women

Figure 29: Training offered by participating companies

Figure 30: Support of participating companies “persons and institutions in charge”

Figure 31: Support of participating companies “flexible work-time schedules and family support”

Figure 32: Answer of participating companies on importance of the topic

Figure 33: Reasons stated of participating companies why topic is of importance

Figure 34: Reasons stated by participating companies why topic is not of importance

Figure 35: Career level of surveyed men and women

Figure 36: Degree or study program of surveyed men and women

Figure 37: Study subject or major of surveyed men and women

Figure 38: Question about preferred industry of surveyed men and women

Figure 39: Question on management level of surveyed men and women

Figure 40: Question about career level in seven years of surveyed men and women bar chart

Figure 41: Question about career level in seven years of surveyed men and women pie chart

Figure 42: Answers of male and female participants that heard about gender discrimination

Figure 43: Question about male and female’s reaction to gender discrimination

Figure 44: Male and female participants believing in women’s disadvantage in promotion opportunities

Figure 45: Reasons why male and female participants believe women facing disadvantages in promotion opportunities

Figure 46: Answers of male and female participants on how to support women to promote into leadership positions

Figure 47: Question of male and female participants’ family plans

Figure 48: Desired leadership profile of companies compared to men and women’s average scores

Figure 49: Measurements to support Chinese female employees’ career advancement

List of Tables

Table 1: Correlation Table of financial performance is and number of women in leadership positions

Table 2: Regional distribution of number of women on the boards

Table 3: Correlations of person or institution in charge for female employee’s career and number of female board members

Table 4: Multiple regression of person or institution in charge for female employee’s career and number of female board members

Table 5: Linear regression of person or institution in charge for female employee’s career and number of female board members

Table 6: Crosstab calculation of female participants’ career expectations and female board members

Table 7: Chi Square test of female participants’ career expectations and female board members

Table 8: Big Five traits self-ratings of men and women compared to companies

Table 9: Spread of Big Five traits of men and women compared to companies’ desired scores

Table 10: Self-ratings of men and women on education and work-related skills

Table 11: Ratings of the other gender regarding education and work-related skills

Table 12: Big Five ratings of the other gender

Table 13: Rating of “Extraversion” of the other gender

List of Abbreviations

EI Emotional Intelligence

GMA General Mental Ability

IDV Individualism

LTO Long-term orientation

MAS Masculinity

MGM Management

NEO-PI-R Reversed Neuroticism-Extraversion-Openness Personality Inventory

OECD Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

PDI Power Distance

UAI Uncertainty Avoidance

USA United States of America

1. Introduction

Women are still significantly underrepresented in Top Management positions and leadership is still associated with the male gender as leadership theories traditionally focused on men. This is especially evident in China which has one of the world’s highest female labor participation but a female share of only eight percent on the corporate boards. Although Chinese women’s tertiary educational attainment is now equal to the tertiary education of Chinese men they still face many barriers on their way to the top. The strong influence of Confucian values perceiving women as inferior to men remains noticeable until today and women find themselves exposed to a strongly patriarchal business environment. The masculine corporate culture and the scarcity of female role models make it difficult for women to find their appropriate style of leadership which result in the devaluation of women’s competences. Further, Chinese women have to face gender-stereotyping and even obvious gender discrimination. As being traditionally the main care-givers of their families their deemed to be expensive potential mothers and thus gender- preference can be observed. In the second chapter classical leadership theories of the Western culture as well as of the Chinese culture are introduced to provide a common understanding of their approaches. Chapter three investigates the situation of women in the past and of today comparing their leadership styles, access to managerial leadership positions and the barriers they face. Since educational attainment of both genders does not explain why women are rarely found on the upper managerial ranks, other reasons that could be a barrier for women’s career advancement are examined in this research. The research focuses on trait- and skills leadership and the influence of Confucian leadership. Behavioral leadership is introduced to understand women’s most embraced style of leadership. The Big Five personality traits using the Revised Neuroticism-Extraversion-Openness Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) are examined to assess whether Chinese men and women differ in their traits matched against the desired leadership profile of the surveyed Chinese companies. It is also used to reveal whether Chinese men do still have gender-stereotypes. Further the research reveals which measures Chinese companies should take to help to improve women’s situation. To see the progress of women in China comparisons are made to Western countries and mainly refer to Germany representing a country of the Western culture. The term leadership position in this paper refers to Top Management which the will focus on the board of directors

2. Understanding of Leadership

2.1 Definitions of Leadership

Leadership is as old as human kind and leadership theories are numerous and to explain the term “leadership” first some definitions will be introduced. There is a surfeit of definitions of leadership that were developed over the years. This surfeit is attributed to the numerous dimensions leadership involves. The definitions are dependent on the time in which they were developed, the point of view and on the aspects that should be emphasized. In Western cultures, the picture of the powerful, authoritarian and directive leader evolved from the early 20th century until the first decade of the 21st century to an inspirational leader that focuses on his or her followers to fulfill a common purpose. Here, the leader shares the leadership but still has the highest responsibility for the organization’s actions (Bass & Bass, 2008). Western leadership studies today, focus more on the followers. However most definitions concentrate on the leading person, it is “leadercentric” and there is no one and only definition of leadership. Conger notes that leadership means “sensing an opportunity in the current situation, formulating a vision, communicating the vision, building trust, motivating followers and achieving the vision through actions by e.g. empowering coworkers” (Kanungo & Conger, 1998). Kotter describes leadership as “set of processes that creates organizations in the first place or adapts them to significantly changing circumstances” (Kotter, 1996). According to Kotter, leadership involves coping with change, setting direction, aligning, motivating and inspiring people. (Kotter, 1996).

Bass & Bass agree on the definition that was developed in 1994 by 84 social scientists in Canada. To them “leadership is the ability to influence, motivate and enable others to contribute to the effectiveness and success of the organization of which they are members” (Bass & Bass, 2008). Hence, leadership inheres a high complexity with many dimensions demanding a variety of skills and is able to cope with change and will use Bass’ & Bass’ definition of leadership. (Bass & Bass, The Bass Handbook of Leadership- Theory, Research & Managerial Applications, 2008)

2.2 Western Leadership Theories

In the following part the main leadership theories of Western literature will be introduced which comprise the trait theories, skills-based leadership theories, behavioral theories, and new leadership theories (Bass & Bass, The Bass Handbook of Leadership- Theory, Research & Managerial Applications, 2008).

Trait Theories

The main leadership theories supporting this research paper are the trait theories. Trait theories were developed at the beginning of the 20th century when trait researchers examined traits to distinguish leaders from non-leaders such as personality, gender, physical appearance e.g. height, weight, stature as well as intellectual abilities summarized as General Mental Ability “GMA” or simply intelligence. GMA or intelligence is a broad set of abilities comprising analytical thinking, creativity or the ability to judge and furthermore includes social skills such as empathy or understanding known as Emotional Intelligence “EI”. A group of 52 scientist defined intelligence as “a very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience. It is not merely book learning, a narrow academic skill, or test-taking smarts. Rather, it reflects a broader and deeper capability for comprehending our surroundings—"catching on," "making sense" of things, or "figuring out" what to do” (Gottfredson, 1994). The term Emotional Intelligence was first clearly defined as intelligence by Mayer and Salovey in 1990 as “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions” (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). EI can be considered in the context of a trait, or of ability. Trait EI covers self-perceived abilities, measured by self-assessments whereas ability EI is measured by third parties requiring individuals to engage in different tasks to assess their actual abilities based on performance (Petrides & Furnham, 2001). Pioneer of the trait approach was Thomas Carlyle with his “great man” theory. His studies gained more representatives of his theory who believed in the hereditability of these traits that are only exclusive to a few human beings which makes them superior to others. Yet, further developed trait theories do not necessarily agree with the “great man” theory believing that only a few heroic men are privileged to take the lead (Reed & Bogardus, 2012).

Considerable researchers in the field of leadership such as Stogdill, Bass, House and Northouse examined personality traits that would mark a leader or increase the possibility to become a leader. However, linking personality traits and leadership was criticized as being too simple and futile since results examining traits and leadership were quite inconsistent. This inconsistence was attributable to the myriad of characteristics and the lack of standardized structures that were used by researchers to describe personality. Yet, some overlapping personality traits with leadership were found by some researchers- most notably self-confidence (Judge, Bono, Ilies, & Gerhardt, 2002).

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Figure 1: Leader-traits (Judge, Bono, Ilies, & Gerhardt, 2002).

Skills-Based Leadership Theories

Other than trait theories, skills-based theories focus on abilities that can be obtained. Katz distinguishes between technical skills, human skills and conceptual skills. Technical skills are the specific knowledge or competences- the set of skills of a specific area and the ability to use specific tools or techniques. Human skills enable to work with people and to get along with subordinates, peers and superiors. This requires empathy and sensitivity for the needs of others. Conceptual skills are the ability to think abstractly. He or she is able to work with ideas and visions with which he or she mentally steers the company’s direction. The conceptual skills are most important for Top Management levels (Katz, 1955).

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Figure 2: Management skills necessary at various levels of an organization (Katz, 1955).

In addition leadership demands work-related knowledge, professional expertise, work experience, knowledge on processes and organizational structures and focuses on the capabilities of a leader to perform effectively. Effective leadership was defined by Stogdill as “a leader's performance in influencing and guiding the activities of his or her unit toward achievement of its goals” (Stogdill, 1950). These skills can be developed by education and experience. This skill-based model was proposed by Mumford. It is divided by individual attributes, competences and the leader’s outcome.

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Figure 3 : Three components of the skills model (Mumford, Zaccaro, Connelly, & Marks, 2000)

The General cognitive ability is a person’s intelligence. Although it refers to trait theories, Mumford includes it as it positively influences a leader’s ability to acquire knowledge and problem-solving skills. Crystallized cognitive ability is intellectual ability learned over time which is gained by experience. Motivation comprises the leader’s willingness to solve complex organizational problems and also means that a leader is willing to express dominance to influence others and is concerned about the company’s advancement. Personality impacts the development of leadership skills e.g. an open, curious personality that is and tolerant for ambiguity influences the leader’s motivation. Traits such as self-confidence and flexibility help a leader to be effective in conflict-situations and problem-solving skills, social judgment skills, and knowledge are crucial for a leader’s performance. Problem-solving skills are the ability to meet the demand to solve unusual problems and thus creativeness is required. Being similar to Katz’s human skills, social judgment skills refer to the ability to understand other people’s needs and value systems and thus enable a leader to work with others. The ability to understand others’ point of view is essential and refers to perspective-taking. Further being aware of the needs and goals of the employees refers to social perceptiveness that leader should exhibit and require communication skills. Knowledge is related to problem-solving skill as it allows the leader to identify and address organizational problems and all of these skills have an impact on a leader’s performance which Mumford describes as the leadership outcome (Mumford, Zaccaro, Connelly, & Marks, 2000).

Behavioral Leadership Theories

In the 1940s leadership research shifted from the trait theory to the behavioral theory. Behavioral theories on leadership describe how leaders behave, what they do and how they treat their followers. These theories underlie the conviction that leadership can be learned since behavior can be changed in opposition to traits. Nevertheless, traits influence a leader`s behavior. (Nelson & Quick, 2007). According to Lussier & Achua “the leadership style is the combination of traits, skills and behaviors […]” (Lussier & Achua, 2010). It determines the interaction between the leader and the followers (Lussier & Achua, 2010) The behavioral theory paradigms are based on three pillars: Lewin’s studies, the Ohio State University Studies and the Michigan University Studies. Kurt Lewin, a psychologist in the 1930s, was one of the first important researchers in empirical leadership style studies. He identified three major leadership styles which are authoritarian- or autocratic, democratic- or participative and laissez- faire- or free reign.

The authoritarian leadership style is characterized by absolute decision making power of the leader and subordinates are not asked for their contribution. In a democratic led group all members are participating in the decision making process. The leader encourages them to discuss, debate and share their ideas and shows appreciation of the member`s involvement. He or she is collaborative and interacts with the group. A good relationship is more significant than the commitment to regulations or hierarchical rules. However, guidance is still needed to provide direction and structure. So the leader has the authority to make the final decisions and takes responsibility for these decisions. The laissez-faire leadership style delegates all the tasks to the group members without giving instructions or only very little. There is no structure or orientation initiated by the leader and assistance is only provided when requested. Thus, the members have free reign and complete decision- making power but also take the responsibility (Northouse, 2010).

With these results Lewin conducted experiments with schoolchildren to find out how they respond to the different leadership styles (Göhlich, Weber, & Schiersmann, 2011). The children were led in groups by the different leaders while doing some arts and crafts. Lewin’s findings were that the children’s behavior was tremendously dependent on the leadership style. In the authoritarian led group, tension and conflict arose. The children were servile and worked quantitatively much. However, in absence of the leader the children quit working. In the democratic led groups, there was low tension. The children were friendly and cooperative. In addition, their deliverables were more creative and qualitatively better. The atmosphere in the laissez-faire group was extremely aggressive. The children “run wild” and had no direction or orientation at all. However, they expressed their preference towards the laissez-faire leader, if they had the choice between him or her and the autocratic leader although the laissez-faire style was the least productive one. (Lewin, Lippitt, & White, 1939). During the 1940s and 1950s the Ohio State University and the University of Michigan were researching on effective leadership behavior. Conducting the Michigan Studies, Likert developed a questionnaire, interviewing leaders and followers in order to identify leadership styles, effectiveness and behavior of leaders with high-producing units and with low-producing units. The survey determined two leader behaviors which were described by the researchers as employee-oriented and production-oriented and were seen as two extremes on a single continuum. The employee-oriented behavior emphasizes strong relationships with the employee valuing him or her as individuals with personal needs. This orientation is marked by trust, support and respect and is measured on the extent of support and interaction facilitation. The production orientation views employees merely as means to get the requested output and to fulfill the job. The leader gives directions and goals to be achieved. This orientation is measured by goal emphasis and work facilitation. Likert and his researchers came to the conclusion that the employee centered leadership style is more effective since it can establish proof of a higher productivity and a higher job satisfaction (Lussier & Achua, 2010) (Griffin, 2012).

The Ohio State Studies were conducted at about the same time. Under direction of Stogdill the researchers listed 1800 items describing different leader behavior and developed the Leader Behavior Description Questionnaire with 150 items asking workers of educational institutes, the military and of the industry. The researchers discovered two basic leadership behaviors which they named “initiating structure behavior” and “consideration behavior”. Leaders using initiating structure behavior clearly separate the roles of the leader and the subordinate and establish formal communication forms as well as rules on task performance i.e. meeting standards and deadlines (Northouse, 2010). Leaders using consideration behavior are interested in creating a warm and friendly atmosphere where everyone’s ideas are welcomed. Although the Michigan Studies and the Ohio State Studies seem to be similar at first, there is a significant difference in the dimensionality of the studies. The Ohio State researchers did not see its two identified behaviors as two one- dimensional extremes but as independent meaning one leader can address both behaviors at different levels making the Ohio State Studies two- dimensional. The findings of these studies conducted that consideration behavior shows a lower staff turnover and a higher job satisfaction whereas initiating structure behavior leads to unhappy workers with more absent days and low job satisfaction (Griffin, 2012).

2.3 New Leadership theories

New leadership theories became object of research in the 80s, when significance of emotional elements of leadership increased. This new leadership, coined by Bryman in 1992, comprises charismatic leadership as well as transformational leadership. The new leadership approach is seen as a hybrid theory uniting the trait-, behavior- and contingency paradigm, which consider the situation as an additional dimension. The center of its attention builds follower commitment and their personal development to lead themselves (Conger & Kanungo, 1998). Transformational and charismatic leaders are keen visionaries, especially needed in times of change, establishing new corporate values and a mission supporting these values (Bryman, 1999).

Charismatic Leadership

The first studies on charismatic leadership can be ascribed to sociologist Max Weber who described charismatic leaders as self-confident, energetic and emotionally appealing being able to inspire their followers especially in difficult times. A charismatic leader is visionary and able to exert influence attaining in turn high commitment by his or her followers. Charisma is an individual trait of a leader that is inspirational conferring tasks and goals meaningfulness. Being first examined in religious and political contexts, significant researchers like House, Shamir, Arthur, Conger and Kanungo advanced Weber’s charisma concept by the neo-charismatic theories applying it also to the private organizational context (Winkler, 2010). House described charismatic leaders as personalities having firm beliefs and ideals, creating trust and expecting high performance of the followers (House R. , 1977). Shamir et al highlight the importance of the followers’ self-concept incorporating the individual’s interests, values and convictions. A charismatic leader is able to tie this self-concept to a vision and goals into a framework of a mission being the basis for the followers’ identification and transforming the individual identities to one collective identity. This transformation also raises the followers’ self-expression, self-esteem, self-worth and self-consistency and therefore their intrinsic motivation (Shamir, House, & Arthur, 1993). Conger and Kanungo share the conviction that charismatic leaders have a strong motivation to lead continuously questioning the status quo while opening new opportunities for new radical changes. To achieve this radical change the charismatic leader uses unconventional means, takes high personal risk and exhibits a heroic will to offer self-sacrifice to achieve the common vision. However, charisma is not only found in the leader but rather in the followers’ perception making it necessary for both parties to share basic beliefs (Conger & Kanungo, 1998) (Conger & Kanungo, 1987).

Transformational Leadership

Due to today’s organizational needs in times of change and uncertainty, transformational leadership belongs to one of the most recent and popular scrutinized leadership paradigms in Western literature. The term “transformational leadership” was first mentioned by Downtown in 1973 in “Rebel Leadership: Commitment and Charisma in a Revolutionary Process”. In 1978, it was Burns to first develop a theoretical framework of transformational leadership which he opposed to transactional leadership that had formed the foundations of previous leadership studies (Northouse, 2010). Based on obvious exchange relationships and being interrelated to transformational leadership studies, Burns argued that the transactional leadership paradigm was at opposite ends of a single continuum. He believed that transformational leaders represented the further developmental level of effective leaders. Adding an ethical dimension to previous leadership theories, Burns’ transformational leadership theory is founded in deep moral convictions exemplified by Socratism and Confucianism as well as by the Western ideals of liberty, utility and justice (Bass & Steidlmeier, Ethics, Character, and Authentic Transformational Leadership Behavior, 1999). According to Burns, transformational leadership is an ongoing process in which the leader and the followers engage with each other to “raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality” to reach the followers’ fullest potential (Burns, 1978). Transcended values, altruism, support, fairness and the collective good are central to this leadership theory. Transformational leaders value relationships to friends, family and community, they hold back their self-interest for the collective welfare. These leaders focus on long-term goals converting the followers themselves into leaders to perform beyond formal expectations. Considering the individual follower’s needs, the transformational leader is able to unite the followers’ as well as the organization’s need raising the consciousness about the importance of the organization’s goals. The followers are willing to sacrifice their self-interest for the sake of the collective good which satisfies their higher order intrinsic needs. Hence, a transformational leader is able to change people and their attitudes with his or her exceptional ability to influence exerting his or her charisma and passionate vision (Burns, Transforming Leadership: A New Pursuit of Happiness, 2003).

Although the terms charismatic and transformational leadership are often used synonymously by several researchers (Shamir, House, & Arthur, 1993), (Conger & Kanungo, 1987), Burn’s disciple, Bernard Bass argues that charisma is a part of transformational leadership. According to Bass there are five elements in transformational leadership: idealized Influence, including charisma, Inspirational Motivation, Intellectual Stimulation and Individualized Consideration.

Idealized Influence (II): Transformational leaders live high moral standards and serve as a role model that in this way gain the respect, trust and admiration of the followers. Followers want emulate their leaders and acquire a collective sense of mission. It is the leader’s charisma that enables this extraordinary influence which is necessary but not sufficient to be a transformational leader (Bass & Avolio, Developing Transformational Leadership: 1992 and Beyond, 1993)

Inspirational Motivation(IM): The transformational leader inspires his or her followers and provides meaning to the tasks and goals which a communicated in a shared vision. This motivates the followers and fills them with enthusiasm (Bass & Riggio, Transformational Leadership, 2008).

Intellectual Stimulation (IS): Transformational leaders question given situations and encourage followers to think critical and to be creative. Innovative problem solving and new ideas are welcomed by the leader and mistakes are not criticized in public (Bass & Riggio, Transformational Leadership, 2008).

Individual Consideration (IC): Since every follower is an individual with own needs, the transformational leader pays special attention to each of his or her follower. The leader is a coach and mentor revealing the followers’ highest potential providing support and advice. This contributes to the followers’ development to become leaders themselves (Bass & Riggio, Transformational Leadership, 2008) (Bass & Avolio, Developing Transformational Leadership: 1992 and Beyond, 1993).

In 1990, Bass introduced “the full range of leadership model” in which he added components of transactional leadership behavior along with laissez-faire leadership to the four components mentioned above. In general transactional leadership involves constant feedback by the leader utilizing conventional means. Positive feedback involves rewards, praise and recognition for the follower, negative feedback is shown by corrective actions such as disciplinary actions, warning or threat. This approach appeals to the follower’s self- interest. Transactional leaders accept existing structures of the company and act within this range. It includes three types of behavior:

Contingent Reward: The leader and the follower agree on the formal exchange of rewards by a demanded performance. As a result, followers understand their jobs as expectations set by the organization that offers external rewards if the required objectives were achieved. The rewards are provided by the organization (Pay for performance) or by the leader individually by positive performance ratings, praise or recognition (Bass B. M., 1990).

Active Management By Exception: The leader clarifies the goals and task accomplishment as well as the consequences if not fulfilled as desired. Therefore the followers’ performance is monitored in case corrective actions have to be taken by the leader to prevent mistakes (Bass B. M., 1990).

Passive Management By Exception: This behavior is marked by the leader’s passivity, not mentoring the follower’s performance. The leader intervenes when the mistake has already been drawing his or her attention. Corrective methods are used paired with negative feedback (Bass B. M., 1990).

In addition to these three leadership behaviors, Bass mentions laissez-faire leadership which he regards as very critical and suitable in very few situations. Laissez-faire leaders avoid leading. They are indecisive, uninvolved and leave all responsibility to the subordinates. They are reluctant to lead even if the task-fulfillment is threatened. In contrast to Burns, Bass viewed transactional and transformational leadership as two independent styles that both are part of every leader and used as a combination form the most effective way of leadership (Bass B. M., 1990).

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Figure 4: The full range of leadership (Bass B. M., 1990).

2.4 Chinese Leadership Theories

Chinese leadership in business organizations today is strongly influenced by its philosophical foundations of Confucianism followed by Daoism which also contributed to Chinese leadership. Therefore, Chinese leadership is characterized as ethocratic ruled by morality and ethical values.

Confucian Foundations of Leadership

Confucianism was developed during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BCE) by the educator and philosopher Kong Fuzi, later renamed Confucius. The Confucian philosophy had enormous influence on the Chinese society and is deeply rooted in its culture. Although Confucianism was abolished in the Qin Dynasty (221 BCE), it became the official ideology of the government in the Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE), when all other schools of thought were banned except for the Confucian schools. With the rising influence of the Indian Buddhist ideologies, Confucianism faded but revived during the Song Dynasty ( 960-1126 CE) and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 CE) and reclaimed its large influence in a New Confucian Movement also known as Neo-Confucianism (Berthrong, 2011) (Fu, Wu, & Yang, 2008). The Confucian doctrines believe in human goodness advocating benevolence (ren), righteousness (yi), ritual propriety (li), wisdom (zhi), trustworthiness (xin), and filial piety (xiao). Benevolence means loving others and is the most important virtue; however wisdom is essential to the Confucian philosophy referring to scholarism and learning and being regarded as the principal means to understand the values of benevolence, righteousness, and ritual propriety, to apply these values in reality and in this way to become a moral gentleman like Confucius. According to Confucius’ understanding, righteousness means to follow moral principles. Ritual propriety is of concern to the appropriateness of social norms, conformity and harmony. Trustworthiness refers to loyalty to superiors in one’s hierarchical relationships. Filial piety describes humility and obedience to one’s parents. Scholars or educated people are therefore regarded as sage or ‘‘the superior-minded’’ (jun zi), distinguishable from the uncultivated people. Only “jun zi” should become leaders (Lee, Peng, & Yang, 2008).

The leader should be guided by the practice of benevolence, maintain harmony and balance, act paternalistic and take care of his subordinates.1 Like the notion of yin and yang, he should follow the Doctrine of the Mean always balancing the interpersonal relationships with his subordinates, to ensure harmony, objectivity and fairness. As a role-model he promotes the Confucian virtues shaping his subordinates’ character and looking after their welfare to build a community. In exchange, the subordinates should show loyalty and obedience and accept his authority, like children that are filial to their parents. Since leaders behave like parents, they should forgive their subordinates’ mistakes or lapse, be patient and educate those (Cheung & Chan, 2005).

Confucius describes five fundamental relationships (wu lun) that reflect the Chinese society- order and guarantee stability. Loyalty and obedience to authorities are viewed to maintain this social order. The five relationships are ruler–subject, father–son, husband–wife, elder–younger, and older friend–younger friend. These relationships are regarded as hierarchical, whereas the ruled, the sons, wives and the younger ones are subordinate. Yet, in China’s modernized society, people- especially the young high-educated generation, differ in their attitude towards authorities and obedience cannot be taken for granted anymore (Lee, Peng, & Yang, 2008).

Figure 5: Confucian hierarchy model. In adaptation to (Lee, Peng, & Yang, 2008).

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Daoist Foundations of Leadership

Daoism is the tenet of the natural way. Unlike the Western leadership thinking, which is guided by “either-or” thinking Daoism is holistic. It integrates human beings into a clear hierarchy of the universe including the earth, heaven and nature. While Confucianism concentrates on human relationships, Daoism is rooted in nature and explains the principles of the universe. Therefore, human beings should follow natural laws and be humble to nature and to the universe as destiny is absolute and cannot be changed by human’s deeds (Cheung & Chan, 2005) (Lee, Han, Byron, & Fan, 2008).

Since Daoism prioritizes simplicity and altruism, individuals and leaders should serve others, only exerting as much influence as needed, encourage and empower followers, foster teamwork and collaboration, be creative, reject status and promote equality, instead of displaying autocratic, assertive and competitive behavior. Dao embraces five features a leader should have. These features are compared to the characteristics of water that is serving humbly and gently to benefit others but is still powerful and preservative. Modesty and humbleness will gain trust and enable a leader’s acceptance by the followers and make him or her recognize the importance of the abilities and talents of the followers. Therefore he or she should not discriminate any human being. A leader should also embrace flexibility and honesty. Maintaining flexibility is crucial to adapt to change since nothing is predictable and the one and only best leadership style does not exist. A leader should adjust the leadership style appropriately according to the situation. Honesty is strongly related to the effectiveness of a leader and seen as an honorable, appreciated quality of a leader. Finally a leader should be kind, gentle but preservative to overcome impediments. Practicing positive inaction (wei wu wei) and non-intervention is most desirable for the ideal leader. He or she should follow the way of nature, observe the situation and adapt to change only when necessary (you wei er zhi). The Master leader governs the people without their awareness of him or her, the next best leader is a loved leader and the two least desirable leaders are the ones to impose rules, regulations and punishments on their subordinates (Lee, Han, Byron, & Fan, 2008).

2.5 Cultural Differences between Western and Chinese Leadership Paradigms

Cultural specifications of leadership are connected to the value systems and beliefs of a society. Thus leadership is significantly correlated to Hofstede’s four cultural factors he identified in his IBM study (Hofstede & McCrae, Personality and Culture Revisited: Linking Traits and Dimensions of Culture, 2004) and Bond’s fifth cultural factor that he added. Hofstede defined culture as “the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes one group or category of people from another” (Hofstede, Culture's Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values, 1980). This mental programming determines people’s behavior and their values as well as their assumptions on the leader-led relationships and power-distribution (Hofstede, Culture's Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values, 1980). So, differences in leadership refer to the dimensions of Power Distance, Individualism/ Collectivism, Uncertainty Avoidance, Masculinity/ Femininity and Long Term Orientation/ Short Term Orientation (Hofstede, 2007). Power Distance refers to the acceptance of unequally distributed power. Individualism implies loose connections between individuals of a society, looking merely after themselves and their closest family members. In a collectivist country people are strongly tied to cohesive groups they are protected by their whole life. As an exchange their full loyalty is demanded. Uncertainty Avoidance describes the extent to which members of a culture feel comfortable or uncomfortable with unknown or unusual situations. Masculinity or Femininity defines how competitive or how caring a culture is. A “masculine” culture is deemed to be motivated by competition and men are supposed to be assertive and ambitious while women should be serving, caring and maintaining relationships. In these cultures gender roles are clear-cut and “traditional”. In “feminine” cultures, quality of life is more important than competition and neither gender is expected to behave in a distinct assigned way (Hofstede, Asian management in the 21st century, 2007). Long Term- and Short Term Orientation describe a culture’s time perspective. In a long term-oriented culture values are predominantly oriented towards the future. Short Term Orientation considers the past and present. Short-term oriented cultures strive for quick results and change is accepted readily. Power Distance as well as Individualism/Collectivism have the strongest impact on the leadership type of a culture. China differes largely from Western countires in these two cultural dimensions which give reason to assume that its leadership style significantly differs from a Western leadership style. The high Power Distance and strong empahsis on Collectivism is related to Confucius’ teachings and therefore leadership positions in China are only accessable for few people and the majority has to show submissive behavior.

Moreover, Chinese leadership is paternalistic. Paternalism in leadership means the leader’s social obligation to take care for the well-being of the subordinates which is expected by the latter since they are obliged to follow their leader’s rules and directions. Therefore Hofstede describes the ideal Chinese leader as the benevolent autocrat who is like a good father to the subordinates (Hofstede & Bond, The Confucius Connection: From Cultural Roots to Economic Growth, 1998) Moreover, Chinese leadership embodies “guanxi” which means to maintain interpersonal relationships, face saving, loyalty and the conformity to these values (Cheung & Chan, 2005).

2.6 Conceptual Delineation of Management and Leadership

There are many definitions for the term “management”. A classical definition of management is given by Fayol. According to Fayol to manage “is to forecast and to plan, to organize, to command, to co-ordinate and to control” (Fayol, 1930). Drucker defines management as “a multi-purpose organ that manages business and manages managers and managers workers and work” (Drucker, 2007). However, these famous definitions do not clearly close management off from leadership which confirms that management is often used synonymously for leadership by researchers. Others view management and leadership as extreme opposites and argue that one cannot be a manager and a good leader at the same time. This opinion is also held by Kotter who is strictly distinguishing between management and leadership. He points out that these two are distinctive but complementary action systems. Kotter defines management as “a set of processes that can keep a complicated system of people and technology running smoothly” (Kotter, Leading Change, 1996). He states that managers deal with complexity whereas leaders deal with change. While a manager’s tasks include planning, organizing, staffing, problem solving and target setting, a leader sets a direction along with strategies by communicating his or her vision and is aligning the people to achieve the common goal. So a manager controls and monitors –a leader motivates and inspires (Kotter, 1996). So, Kotter’s definition strictly differentiates between management and leadership. Nonetheless, in daily business management and leadership can overlap e.g. in a small company where the business owner is responsible for both managerial and leadership tasks. Moreover, some companies use these terms interchangeably. So leadership positions often refer to management positions, especially in the upper ranks of management since at the top managerial level conceptual skills and human skills are more needed than technical skills.

Management hierarchy usually consists of Top-Management, middle management and lower management. On the one hand some of the literature differs between Top Management and the board of directors. On the other hand there is literature that views the board of directors as Top-Management itself arguing that it is the ultimate level of authority. This paper will use the latter argument and thus Top Management will refer to the board of management. Top-level managers make the company’s major decisions. It is common that Top Management comprises a chairman of the board, a CEO, a president, a vice president, a CFO, a COO and a CIO. Top management sets the strategy and clarifies the objectives and broad policies which guide and direct the company. It is responsible for the company’s budgets, procedures and sets the time horizon. Further, Top Management controls and coordinates the company’s departments and informs the environment about the company performance. Management is closely linked to the skills-based leadership approach. As the managerial level decreases, the need for conceptual skills decreases and the need for technical skills increases. So middle-level managers need to rely more on their technical skills but spend less time for conceptual tasks. For lower-level managers conceptual skills are less important and the time spend on technical skills is higher than in middle-management (Koontz & Weihrich, 2008). Thus top managers lead and manage a company and therefore Drucker’s definition of management applies.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 6: Skills and management levels (Koontz & Weihrich, 2008)

3. Women in Managerial Leadership

Women are significantly underrepresented in Top Management positions. This large gap between men and women on the boards can be attributed to many reasons such as to the historical background of women’s role in Chinese as well as Western society and intrapsychic gender-role expectations that are reflected by stereotypes. The educational progress of women raises the question on the impact of gender discrimination as most Chinese women do not exceed lower management (OECD, 2011). In this chapter some of these reasons are examined to answer this question and the following part elaborates the historical background of women’s role in society to understand women’s low representation in leadership positions.

3.1 Changes in Western and Chinese society

Changes in Western society

Changes in Western society occurred mainly in three waves which extended over two centuries. The first wave started in the UK in the 50s of the 19th century when the Industrialization started and lasted until the 20s of the 20th century. In Germany it was Louise Otto-Peters who was initiating the first wave which then started after the Revolution of 1848. Seven decades, women fought for equal rights to bring their suffrage to an end aiming for access to education, fair employment equal payment and further rights. Efforts of the women’s’ suffrage to have the right to vote and to run for office finally succeeded in 1918. (Sanders, 2006). So Industrialization as well as the Revolution of 1948 contributed to fundamental changes in the German society. Moving from an agricultural society to Industrialization, the demand for workforce from the farms increased which distressed the traditional family lives of the contemporary time. Women who used to carry out the domestic work e.g. cooking, cleaning and child- care, now started to work in the factories and in the offices which could be done by them since they were not as physically demanding as the work on the farms (Valerio, 2009). But during the National Socialism German women lost their right to vote and the enrolment into universities of female students was restricted to 10 percent. The ideal of the caring mother and housewife was propagated which reduced women to their biological ability to give birth. The Second World War in which men had to serve led to an increase of women in jobs that predominantly have been occupied by men. After the war the so called “Trümmerfrauen” rebuilt the German cities since less men were alive. The conviction of women being necessary employment factors in the economy lasted in East Germany also after the Allies took control over Germany. Women in West Germany but also in other Western countries returned to their households after the war but with the new experience to have the freedom of earning own money (Paludi & Coates, 2011). So developments slowed down and the first wave subsidized.

It was in the 1960s when the second wave arose and was organized against sexism, inequality in cultures and in laws. Initiated by students, hefty debates arose to oppose the inequalities they still experienced. The second wave lasting from the 60s until the 80s of the 20th century, evoke a flood of feminist organizations e.g. as a reaction to Friedan’s book “The Feminist Mystique”. The book criticized the limited access for women to professional careers in a patriarchal society. Organizations that were formed as a response aimed to abolish these patriarchal and hierarchical structures adopting non-hierarchy and non-formal leadership. They began to experiment with consensual decision making processes which guided to a new leadership approach and provided a new model of leadership challenging the until then existing rigid structures of organizations, businesses, educational and governmental institutions (Thornham, 2006) (Whitaker, 2010).

The third tidal wave began in the 80s and took place primarily in the US. Unlike in the second wave, the movement focused on women as an individual to strengthen the opportunities of their personal career development but also to initiate further changes relating to gender, sexuality and women of color. The movement heightened women’s self-confidence and their self-awareness making a step towards feminine individual leadership and opening more opportunities to occupy formal leadership positions (Walby, 2011). It promoted individual female leadership enabling women to contemplate on their “self” wising up to the fact that they can be independent leaders. However women are still significantly underrepresented in leading positions. Therefore researchers study the social, structural and legal circumstances preventing women from these positions. (Eagly & Carli, 2007).

Changes in Chinese society

From the Chou dynasty through the modern period until 1919, China’s society was dominated by men constituting a patriarchal society that oppressed women. During the Chou dynasty (1100-770 BCE) labor was strictly divided between men and women. Men were designated to plow and women to weave. In the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BCE) Confucianism reinforced and promoted this strict gender roles within the families and thus within the society. Its clear hierarchy should guarantee and maintain the societal stability of China and largely shaped Chinese families’ lives (Qingshu, 2004). During the Han Period (206 BCE- 220 CE) Confucianism was established in the official education. The gender roles were connected to the principles of yin and yang. According to this principle, yin and yang have different characteristics. Yin corresponds to the female gender being soft and weak; yang corresponds to the male gender being hard and strong. As yin is also said to be slow, yang should take the lead and yin should follow (Goldin, 2003). This legitimated that a woman’s life was expected to take part within her family being loyal and submissive to her father, after her marriage to her husband and to her grown son. Husbands should control their wives and to maintain this authority they should teach and educate their sons. Only few privileged women, like Ban Zhao, had access to education. In her Confucian Lessons for Women, she insisted on education for girls and women while accepting all the other Confucian prevailing convictions about the role of the women (Wang R. , 2003). In the Sui Dynasty (581-618 CE) Daoism was the ruling philosophy. Women’s role in Daoism has to be seen in the context of China’s society, which at that time still was the role of the obedient and submissive wife of her husband and their participation in Daoist organization, though higher than in other organizations, was restricted. Although the Daoist philosophy did not challenge Confucians’ view of the role of women, Daoism is said to somewhat favored women since it stresses the importance of the female yin, making it at least as important as the male yang. Daoist temples also offered help to women that were in an unfortunate situation and that were rejected by society e.g. women that were not able to marry or widows. These women became Daoist practitioners and some were said to be founders of a whole Daoist tradition (Despeux, 2008). During the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) women enjoyed somewhat more freedom and rights which were eliminated again in the Song Dynasty (960- 1279 CE) connoting the turning point for women’s lives, which deteriorated under Neo-Confucianism. Footbinding became an important virtue for a girl and chastity for girls and widows. Before marriage a girl should be chaste to illustrate purity. A widow was not supposed to remarry and live chaste whereas husbands were allowed to have concubines and remarry if their wives died. Often loneliness and poverty were accompanying consequences of the chastity obligation for women (Rosenlee, 2006) (Song & Song, 2003).

Little changed until the 20th century and still men exclusively dominated and ruled China, enjoying higher education, career opportunities, the right to vote and overall a higher status than women. Women were silenced to serve their husbands, were enslaved and their marriages were arranged. From an early age, women were prepared for their role as their husbands servants, reflected among others in the practice of footbinding. The first feminist movements were, other than in the Western countries, not initiated by women themselves but by the elite of Chinese male intellectuals, that were later on followed by some educated women. The feminist movements raised in the 20th century. During the Xinhai Revolution Chinese women founded a “Women’s Suffrage Alliance” in 1911 supported by Sun Yat- sen that aimed for the right to vote, equal educational rights, freedom of marriage, monogamy, improvement of women’s position at home, career support and banning of concubinage. Although the Alliance was not successful and dissolved, it paved the way for the May Fourth Movement in 1919, in which the women’s movements awakened. In this movement students demanded the abolition of Confucianist traditional hierarchical values and many women were engaged in this movement. But they did not experience significant positive changes until the era of Mao (Wang Z. , 1999)

With the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, a communist, new social, economic and political order was established under Mao Zedong and the Communist Party of China (CPC). His social movements and reforms focused on the collectivization, and industrialization of the society as well as the dispossession of private property. Banning religion, rituals and ceremonies, he attacked the inherited Confucian ideals of Chinese families. Until that time, society was based on the Confucian thought with the family as the center which lasted more than 2000 years. Family values and ancestor worship was replaced by the communist state ideology and the traditional social order of the family members was challenged. Mao intended to destroy old ideas, old habits, old customs and old culture, known as the “Four Olds”. Women profited from these changes, being granted more rights and equality to men, at least theoretically. Marriage laws changed in favor of women by abolishing dowries, arranged marriages, concubinage and child marriage and by allowing women to file for divorce. Women were assigned to work and as still being the main caretakers of their families, daycare for children were established. (Guthrie, 2009). With Mao’s slogan that “women hold up half the sky”, he stressed their importance in society but women were only welcome to the degree they could contribute to his goal of industrialization (Karl, 2010).

In post- Mao era, after the Cultural Revolution in 1976 and Mao’s death, new economic reforms were established to restore the social and economic order and China transformed from a planned economy to a free market economy opening its doors to the world. This has brought remarkable economic growth and wealth but also problems. While on the one hand, the reforms improved women’s career opportunities and living standard in general, they suffered disadvantages on the labor market. In the free market economy, jobs for a lifetime were not assigned anymore to everybody and women were the first ones to be laid off. This increased their economic dependence, decreased their status and led to more problems in the families (Min, 2002).

3.2 Feminist Leadership Theories

The interest in feminist leadership studies is new compared to classical leadership studies focusing exclusively on men. In the Western countries academic research on women in leadership increased gradually with the progress of political equality of men and women and the second wave of the feminist movements in the 60’s. Yet, compared to other research areas of leadership there are few formal studies on feminist leadership. Western feminist theories can only be dated back to the 1970s comparing male and female leadership based on their traits, skills and behavior. Later on a wide range of alternative leadership models also considered situational factors of contingency studies, spirituality, authenticity, relationality, ethics and transcendence to accommodate the characteristics of today’s society and economy being confronted by a rapidly changing technology, globalization, changing demography, crisis and uncertainty. These characteristics effect leadership studies directly, concentrating more on diversity including women (Klenke, 2011). But until the middle of the 20th century leadership studies were influenced by the “great man” concept (O'Brien & Shea, 2010) (Brown, 1979). In China feminist leadership theories are very limited as well. Chinese as well as Western leadership- conceptualizations were historically framed by men on men, who exerted power, authority and influence. This power, authority and influence took place in public, in organizations, institutions and politics, dominated by men. Women have typically been relegated to the private sphere to focus on their families and to maintain social relationships. These were the contexts where they were the leaders, however not acknowledged officially. This accounts for the dearth of scholarship on feminist leadership. Since most of leadership theories were developed by men, the perception of leadership is largely associated with male leaders and “masculine” attributions. Until today, many positions and professions such as “politician”, “manager”, or “scientist” are connected with masculinity (Klenke, 2011).

Gender Differences in Leadership Styles

Looking at the behavioral leadership theories, studies showed that women are more likely to embrace participative, democratic styles of leadership as men and men are said to tend to exert an autocratic style of leadership as the democratic and autocratic dimensions of behavioral leadership are subject to gender roles. Autocratic leaders are deemed to relate to male leadership behavior which is reflected in exerting dominance, control and autocracy. Examining Bass’ full range of leadership, women were found to tend to engage in transformational leadership which was found to be more effective in Western companies than transactional leadership as it responds better to the changing environment and economical conditions facing globalization, technology growth and competition. Men were more likely to embrace a transactional leadership style. Transformational and transactional leadership cannot necessarily be assigned to a gender specific behavior. However, transformational leadership includes communal behavior, especially the aspect of individualized consideration of the followers needs (Eagly A. H., Female Leadership Advantage and Disadvantage: Resolving the Contradictions, 2007) and large evidence was found that women all around the world tend to embrace that style of leadership (Bass & Riggio, Transformational Leadership, 2008), (Eagly & Johannesen-Schmidt, Leadership style matters: the small, but important, style differences between male and female leaders, 2007), (Yammarino, Dubinsky, Comer, & Jolson, 1997), (Eagly & Crowley, Gender and Helping Behavior: A Meta-analytic View of the Social Psychological Literature, 1986) (Eagly, Johannesen-Schmidt, & van Engen, Transformational, Transactional, and Laissez-Faire Leadership Styles: A Meta-Analysis Comparing Women and Men, 2003). Transactional behavior in women was mainly expressed in contingent reward, which means women tend to reward followers more often for accomplishing tasks, then men. As this behavior is aligned with the female role it allows women to reduce the negative reactions and resistance to their leadership role although it might not be their default style (Vinkenburg, van Engen, Eagly, & Johannesen-Schmidt, 2011). Yoder posits fulfilling the role-expectancies and exercising a transformational leadership style strengthens their confidence in themselves in their leadership style and is more effective for women than showing power and authority (Yoder, 2001). Although transformational leadership is effective in general, it can ease especially women’s problems in finding an appropriate leadership style since transformational leadership overlaps with the stereotypical female communal behavior and does not necessarily imply typically masculine attributes. Rather, it is viewed as androgynous. Though the differences in the use of transformational behavior patterns are small, their implications can have an important impact carried out in reality (Eagly & Johannesen-Schmidt, Leadership style matters: the small, but important, style differences between male and female leaders, 2007) (Judge & Piccolo, 2004). Task-orientation differed as an effect of role-congruency of the leadership position. To the extent that a leadership position was more congruent within a perceived masculine role, men were more task-oriented and vice versa. Subsequently, the assessment of skills and competences is dependent on the gender- congruency of a leadership-role (female principals in elementary schools, male officers in the military) (Eagly & Johannesen-Schmidt, The Leadership Styles of Women and Men, 2001). Nevertheless, even in predominantly female workplace settings, men still hold most of the leading positions. Assertions of the non-existence of differences between men’s and women’s leadership behavior, derives by the assumption that men and women in similar leadership positions fulfill their duties behaving similarly (Bass B. M., 1990) (Kanter, 1977). However, this similarity is attributable to a society’s shared norms of gender roles which women internalized.

Studies on Chinese women’s leadership style are very limited. One of the few studies was conducted by Zhao, Tan and Urhahne. They found that similar to the studies carried out in North America and Western Europe; Chinese women scored higher on a transformational leadership style and showed higher interpersonal competences (Zhao, Tan, & Urhahne, 2011). The study revealed that their transformational leadership style was preferred by some subordinates that were not that firmly rooted in the traditional Confucian value-system. However, it is disputed whether this implicates an advantage for female Chinese leaders. On the one hand, comparing the five cultural factors of Hofstede and Bond it can be assumed that a participative, democratic leadership style is not expected or desired by every subordinate in a high power distant and tight culture like China. Interpersonal skills have to be assessed in the particular culture that is examined and cannot be applied equally to other culture’s beliefs of interpersonal skills. Collectivism, rank, rules and regulations are still prevailing in China’s society. Thus they cannot be directly transferred to Chinese leadership behavior and an autocratic leadership style might be more desired. On the other side, China depends heavily on business relationships and networks (“guanxi”) and thus interpersonal competences which have large impact on the satisfaction of subordinates and the company’s performance suggest the advantage of higher people-orientation (Ping, Mujtaba, Whetten, & Wei, 2012).

3.3 Women’s Visible and Invisible Impediments to Top Management

Eagly and Karau suggest three categories to assess gender differences in the leadership context: attitude, access and evaluation (Eagly & Karau, Role Congruity Theory of Prejudice Toward Female Leaders., 2002). Attitude can be defined as “a settled way of thinking or feeling about something” (Oxford Dictionaries, 2012) and thus attitude refers to people’s perception of women and their gender role in society. These have direct and indirect influence on women’s access to leading positions. Eagly & Carli state that gender has multidimensional levels including gender-stereotyping, gender-role identity and social role expectancies which therefore represent visible as well as invisible barriers for women (Eagly & Carli, Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About How Women Become Leaders, 2007).

In the Western countries, the tremendous changes society enhanced women’s status. Nevertheless, women of most Western cultures also still have to face gender-stereotypes and struggle with subtle unconscious and conscious discrimination which is hard to prove since it is not evident (Valerio, 2009). Chinese women are even confronted with obvious discrimination and have to fulfill social-role expectancies as a heritage of the deeply internalized Confucian values. They encounter disturbing difficulties at all job levels, whether they seek employment as factory workers, as university graduates or as managers. A survey of the Women's Federation of Jiangsu Province of 2007 reported that out of 1100 university graduates, 80 percent of the female graduates, experienced significant social, economic and political inequalities (All-China Women's Federation, 2002). So, the access to the upper ranks in political powerful positions or managerial positions is almost denied to Chinese women. Further, they are the first to be laid-off in companies and make up around 70 percent of unemployed in the urban area. Moreover, they face difficulties in being promoted in public as well as in private companies. Women encounter these difficulties especially in public companies where women have to retire at the age of 55, while men are offered the opportunity to work until the age of 60. The policy of early retirement makes it more unlikely for women to get a promotion or occupy a leadership position (Guthrie, 2009) (Min, 2002). Since the end of the 20th century the Chinese government makes efforts to enhance and improve women’s rights by enacting laws and regulations (e.g. Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Women of 1992) as well as by setting in reforms in education to reduce gender inequality. But until today some factories prefer young, unmarried women and have them to sign illegal contracts stating not to get pregnant while employed (Burnett, 2010). So, although women enjoy legally the same rights as men in employment they face enormous barriers in reality and are vastly underrepresented in top managerial positions. Moreover, the traditional family life in China was dominated for more than 2000 years by the Confucian hierarchical view that emphasizes the rank of seniority, age and gender. Family is understood as an entity, as part of one’s parents and ancestors. This traditional Chinese family model has somewhat changed since the Chinese society transformed from an agricultural society to an industrialized society under the influence of the Mao era and the post-Mao era. Yet, women remained the main care-givers for their children, parents and parents in-law until today. Whereas women were supported by the government in their role as care-givers in the communist era of Mao Zedong (1949-1976), this has changed and China’s open-door politics and market-economy led to more competition between enterprises. The, until then inefficient allocated labor in the planned economy was replaced by market allocated mechanisms which changed labor participation and wages (Karl, 2010).

Gender Stereotyping

Gender stereotyping can be differentiated in descriptive as well as prescriptive beliefs. Descriptive beliefs describe how men and women do behave whereas prescriptive beliefs describe how men and women are ought to behave. This gender-stereotyping is inevitably part of organizational behavior. A stereotype is “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing” (Oxford Dictionaries, 2012) whereas a prejudice is “a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience” (Oxford Dictionaries, 2012). So stereotypes shape attitudes and determine women’s access to leading positions in organizations including the opportunity to get equal promotions but also the evaluation of their leadership effectiveness. Further, gender-stereotyping influences the leader’s gender self-definition about his or her own behavior in an organization to meet the gender role-expectations. Yet, meeting female role-expectancies simultaneously with those expected of a leadership role which connotes masculine behavior, can result to leadership styles that are different from those of men. Schein assumed that this shortage of women can be explained by sex role stereotyping which were confirmed by Schein’s studies in 1973 and 1975 (Schein, The relationship between sex role stereotypes and requisite management characteristics, 1973) (Schein, The relationship between sex role stereotypes and requisite management characteristics among female managers, 1975). The German and the Chinese society as well as its employees still mentally associates leaders, leadership or “good” managers with male characteristics. Hence, women are still perceived as not having the needed skills to fit in the leadership role. Even in traditionally “female” work settings including nursing, elementary education and social work, men mostly hold the supervisory tasks. Stereotypes women are confronted with imply women to be too emotional, soft spoken and not self-confident enough to practice leadership. Women are ascribed communal qualities such as kindness, helpfulness, sensitivity and empathy. Men are deemed to be aggressive, ambitious, competitive, dominant and self-confident exerting authority and displaying agentic qualities (Eagly & Carli, Harvard Business Review, 2007). These qualities are in most societies still seen as typical leadership behavior. Schein’s study that examined the “think-manager think male” phenomenon compared male and female management students from the USA, Germany, UK, China, and Japan towards their association of male and female characteristics and a managerial position. The findings revealed that the male students showed a strong connotation of a male-manager similarity. Females did so too in Germany, the UK, China and Japan but to a far lesser degree than the male students. In the US, females did not associate the management position to a gender. In China, the male students showed the highest degree of managerial sex-typing due to their historical and cultural background perceiving men as superior to women in general. Women are considered less suitable for managerial positions in all of the five countries which did not change much in the three decades of Schein’s ongoing research on gender stereotyping (Schein, 2007). Although the Chinese youth that participated in Schein’s study in 2006 belong to the Generation Y it seems that the “think manager- think-male has not changed. The term “Generation Y” was first mentioned in 1993 in the Ad Age Magazine and according to most sources, was born around 1978 and the year 2006 (McCrindle & Wolfinger, 2009). The Chinese youth is open to consumerism and to the West, valuing traveling and increasingly emphasizes individualism. Because these young people are usually the only child in the family, they are spoiled, better educated than the generations before and they are growing up in a prospering economy giving reason to be full of optimism and enthusiasm. Like the western Generation Y, they are used to new technologies and the Internet, connecting with people all around the world and taking their advice when they face a problem (Stanat, 2006). Filial respect and family are the center of their values evoking the desire to care for them. Young, urban Chinese, like their western counterparts, have high expectations towards their job, seeking to enjoy their work and their life, equally. They work in a more collaborative manner and show better management skills than the generations before. Although a big generation gap can be observed that are reflected in a lower approval to traditional Chinese values and hierarchy, it seems that women are still viewed as less competent and thus less suitable for a leadership position. This is especially critical as these young people will be the future leaders in the Chinese business organizations (Kwok, 2012).

Chinese Women’s Family Responsibility

The “One-Child Policy” of 1979 contributed to the changes in family and the power-distance between family members somewhat decreased as well as the families’ sizes. The only child in Chinese families builds the centre of these families enjoying complete love and attention (Hwang, 2008). Although the smaller sizes of the families have reduced women’s domestic duties to some extend and stimulated their opportunities to participate in the labor force, this policy causes severe problems. Harsh penalties are imposed on families with more than one child and although the policy was mitigated, it still leads to female infanticide and forced abortions since sons are still viewed to be the main provider of their parents in their old-age. In fact, China’s women are facing a rollback in their rights, family responsibility remained and women are still the care givers to their children, parents and parents in-law (Tatlow, 2012). As women’s work participation is deemed to be inflexible, unreliable and expensive due to maternity-leave costs or days off for child care they were and are the first ones to be laid off and face great difficulties to be re-employed. Child care is not supported in most companies, flexible working hours are only offered by around 24 percent of Chinese companies and the number of day care centers decreased in China (Cook & Dong, 2011). Private nannies are usually affordable and child care responsibility is not necessarily a reason for Chinese women to forgo a career. But not only child care but especially the eldercare is a large problem for Chinese women as flexible-working opportunities remain the exception in Chinese companies. So many women have to forgo their career choosing a less demanding job or even quit their job. The elder-care puts a double-burden on women if they have to take care of children as well. Once Chinese women decide to leave their job they are rarely given the possibility to return to their jobs or getting a job at all (Hewlett, Harvard Business Review, 2011). Thus, Chinese female employees lament the low support by Chinese companies in general which therefore represents a further impediment to get promoted into Top Management as flexible career paths are not existent in China (Hewlett, Harvard Business Review, 2011), (Süssmuth-Dyckerhoff, Wang, & Chen, 2012).

Business Networks

The inner structure and culture of an organization as well as social capital delineate further invisible boundaries not only for Western but especially for Chinese women. Social relationships are crucial to become part of informal, social networks to get access to information and resources and to foster relationships. Business managers in China rely heavily on “guanxi” and networks which are indispensable to them and have a much greater influence in doing business than in the West and thus they are directly connected to a Chinese company’s outcome. These networks are still dominated by the male sex that participate in activities tailored to typically men’s interest such as golfing, hunting, fishing or going out for drinks from which especially women in China are excluded (Hewlett, 2011). Such activities take part outside of the usual working hours, e.g. in the evening after work or at the weekends which is more problematic for women with families to engage in these activities since they still have the major domestic duties (Kark & Eagly, 2010).

Evaluation of Female Leaders

Although women tend to embrace transformational leadership as described in chapter 2.2, they are likely to be evaluated unfavorably if they show agentic behavior and not the desired communal behavior of women. So women‘s leadership behavior is strictly constraint (Eagly & Johannesen-Schmidt, Leadership style matters: the small, but important, style differences between male and female leaders, 2007). Women are in an ambivalent situation applying behaviors that are considered as being male in the hope to succeed and to fit into the still dominantly male environment but at the same time being communal. Women showing self-confidence, promoting herself or simply disagreeing is could have negative impacts on her evaluation of her leadership performance as it is not consistent with the expected communal behavior a woman should display (Eagly & Carli, Harvard Business Review, 2007). Whereas for men it is welcomed if they show, as feminine seen behavior such as speaking in a friendly and warm way, being supportive and helpful, it is taken for granted if women do so and is not rewarded beneficially (Eagly & Carli, Harvard Business Review, 2007). These stereotypes and the resulting conflicting demands have not changed much and still represent a severe problem. (Valerio, 2009). Although women have to put much more effort in their role to prove themselves in their position than their male colleagues, they are considerably evaluated adversely. Their competence is questioned constantly and evaluations by men are more critical since men are more prejudiced against women than women against men (Rojahn & Willemsen, 1994). This is especially problematic in organizations where men outnumber women. Men are perceived as “natural” leaders and as being more competent than women what is especially conceived by men (Catalyst, 2006) (Valerio, 2009). So, being evaluated and getting feedback mainly by men is consequently influenced by this prejudice having negative effects on a women’s ability to compete, to influence her subordinates and to maintain her authority. The pro-male bias and the overall tendency to devaluate women in their leadership role has been proven by several meta-analyses (Swim, Borgida, Maruyama, & Myers, 1989), (Eagly, Makhijan, & Klonsky, Gender and the Evaluation of Leaders: A Meta-Analysis., 1992), (Rojahn & Willemsen, 1994), (Eagly & Karau, 2002), (Rudman, Moss-Racusin, Phelan, & Nauts, 2011). Although Bartol & Butterfield and the gender-role congruency hypothesis of Nieva & Gutek assume that female leaders who meet the expectations on female characteristics will be evaluated more favorably than their male colleagues this assumption is refuted by Heilman & Chen and Eagly & Carli finding that females being sex role congruent do not benefit from that since being communal is prescriptive for women (Butterfield & Bartol, 1976) (Nieva & Gutek, 1980) (Heilman & Chen, 2005) (Eagly & Carli, Harvard Business Review, 2007). Women that embraced mainly agentic behavior were perceived as impersonal, abrasive and were therefore disliked. As communality is attributed to low status and agency to high status, this behavior was particularly penalized by their male counterparts feeling their hierarchical status to be threatened (Eagly & Karau, Role Congruity Theory of Prejudice Toward Female Leaders., 2002). However Rudman, Moss-Racusin, Phelan, Phelan, & Nauts found women do penalize women who are deemed to unbalance the traditional hierarchical structure to the same degree as men (Rudman, Moss-Racusin, Phelan, & Nauts, 2011). Poor or less favorable performance appraisals mean also a barrier for a woman’s advancement in her career and promotions into the higher ranks of management are rare. To get promoted, higher evaluation standards are applied to assess her performance. The unfavorable assessments especially hold true for women embracing agentic and autocratic leadership styles which “violate” the sex- role expectancies. This makes is almost impossible to establish good relationships to her male colleagues and subordinates and to build up a network at the workplace which is essential to exert positive influence and to get promoted. Further women have few role-models in organizations or female mentor for their position as leaders which make it difficult for them to adopt an appropriate leadership style (Eagly & Karau, Role Congruity Theory of Prejudice Toward Female Leaders., 2002). A study Frank disclosed in China with 44 male and 28 female Chinese management students showed similar findings. Female managers were described as being slower, weaker, more democratic, less competent and friendlier than male managers. The male students were also less likely to accept a wife to pursue a career and have children at the same time. Surprisingly the female students stated to prefer to work for a male boss if they had to choose between a men and a woman equally qualified. In summary the sample indicated that women are evaluated less favorably than men are the less accepted the higher they move up the career ladder (Frank, 2001).

3.4 Educational Advancement of Chinese and German Women

The education of women compared to men can serve to examine another reason why only few women get promoted into Top Management. Until the Industrialization in Germany as well as in Chinese society, women’s participation in the work-force was low with limited access to education. Women’s main duties concentrated on their domestic responsibilities including housekeeping and childcare. Working outside of their homes was restricted to only a few areas such as teaching, farm work, nursing, or in the factories. Occupying leadership roles in politics, church or in public organizations was not taken into consideration and therefore no necessity was seen for women to obtain higher education. It was at the end of the 19th century when the West slowly introduced women to higher education as a result of the influences by the era of the Enlightment claiming that “mind has no sex”. Nonetheless, women still encountered resistance which also included religious groups and male educators which assumed that women do not possess the same intellectual abilities as men. Educators restricted their study field to subjects such as sewing, drawing, French or, at that time to the as unimportant perceived natural sciences. It was only when natural sciences became important when women were said not to be talented enough to study them. Women themselves believed not to be as capable as men and not to possess leadership qualities (Martínez Alemán & Renn, 2002).

The waves of feminism, the First and the Second World War as well as economic and societal changes raised women’s educational opportunities in Western countries. In Germany during the First World War women’s enrollment into colleges and universities increased significantly as a result of the lack of men that could be married. (Martínez Alemán & Renn, 2002). Yet, German female students were raised to be good housewives and mothers teaching them home economics or domestic sciences. But the greater access to education in general was one key to enter the workforce and improve women’s career opportunities. The Second World War favored this development. By the end of the Second World War, Germany reconstructed its educational system and extended the opportunities of education to all classes of society to teach girls and boys democratic values (Hutton, 2001). The age of school drop- outs increased to the age of 16 and in the 1960s co-education was introduced which lessened sex- specific education. Girls gained self-confidence and independence questioning the gender-role and the women’s movements as well as the economic upturn made career chances for women greater than ever before. The 60s of the 20th century triggered a dramatic shift in women’s education and by the 1980s enrollment of female students in Germany achieved approximate parity with male students at that time (Martínez Alemán & Renn, 2002).

In China it was not until the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, when the Chinese female population gained access to education in large numbers. Confucianism and the patriarchal structure deeply shaped the Chinese society that oppressed its women and viewed them as inferior. Larger changes occurred in roughly two phases, in the 1950s to 1958 and in the 1960s to the 1970s when socialist gender equality policies as well as the opening of China to the world improved women’s formal schooling possibilities. Access to higher education was expanded in the 80s and 90s owing to further reforms (Lavely, Zhenyu, Bohua, & Freedman, 1990) (Postiglione, 2006). Today education is a fundamental human right and regarded as essential for economic growth, welfare, social- and political stability. Women in Germany and China already surpass men in their education. Girls in China still have to struggle though for educational equity, especially in the rural areas of China where many families cannot afford school fees. The Confucian influence is still noticeable there and girls are considered as expenses and loss since they are believed to care for their future husband’s family. The “One-Child Policy” and the families’ poverty cause gender-discrimination especially in rural China and restrict girls’ access to education. The Chinese Government takes this problem very seriously and introduced several programs such as the “Spring Bud Programme”, helping rural parents financially to educate their girls. Yet, many Chinese parents calculate the costs of their daughters’ education and compare them with the benefits. Although their parents welcome equal education opportunities they believe it is more useful for their sons than for their daughters. The aspirations for a boy’s education and career are therefore higher and son-preference is still prevailing. Consequently, girls’ schooling opportunities are still behind of boy’s opportunities. Despite the economic growth, social change and urbanization, girls only profit slowly from these changes, though the significance of patriarchy weakens (Postiglione, 2006).

The number of female students worldwide is steadily increasing and they are now the majority in most countries pursuing a tertiary education. Women’s enrollment into universities is steadily increasing in Europe, including Germany and surpasses men’s enrollments since 1999 until 2009 by approximately 10 percent in relation to the population growth. This also impacts the number of female graduates. There are more female graduates than male graduates in North America and Europe in almost all fields of study except for Natural and Applied Sciences (European Commission, 2012) (United Nations Educational, 2012). Women also exceed in grades and evaluations.


1 Here the female personal pronoun “her” is not mentioned as according to Confucius, women were subordinated to men.

Excerpt out of 172 pages


Women in Leadership Positions in the People's Republic of China
Challenges, Trends and Opportunities
Heilbronn University
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Women, Leadership, Diversity, China, Empowerment, Leaders
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Maria Adnane (Author), 2012, Women in Leadership Positions in the People's Republic of China, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/585300


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