9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN33 Women's and Gender Studies

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Gendered Pathways of Professional Success Building II, C4.01

Personality, Gender and Career in Management

In the discourse on leadership personality traits are often linked to careers, access to managerial positions and professional success. The so-called trait-theory has been harshly criticized by scientists, but still plays an important role in practice for those who select, promote, and evaluate executives (as can be seen in job advertisements) as well as for the executives themselves. Additionally, personality traits in general and especially those known to be leadership skills are often attributed to gender stereotypes.

This paper focuses on women and men who already managed to overcome possible obstacles in order to reach a management position. By means of the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) - a representative individual dataset for Germany with more than 20.000 respondents - we investigate the impact of personality traits on (objective) professional success. Therefore the self-reported personality traits of women and men employed in the private sector in Germany in 2005 are analyzed with regard to their professional status and compared against each other.

Our bivariate analyses confirm that executives differ significantly in their personality traits (Big Five and risk propensity) compared to those employees not in managerial positions - both for women and for men. But women in management seem to differ from female employees with lower professional status to a greater extent than their male counterparts do.

However, by taking other individual characteristics such as human capital investments, work environment, and life circumstances into account (multivariate analyses) we have no statistical evidence for differences in the impact of personality traits on professional success between women and men. Different chances of women and men for their career advancement could rather be explained by years of work experience, extent of overtime work, and by labor market segregation.

Regarding the effect size of several determinants of professional success our results show both for women and for men that personality traits are less relevant though statistically significant compared to objective indicators such as duration of education or extent of overtime work. Nonetheless, personality traits might play a role for gender differences more indirectly because some of these objective characteristics already reflect the level of certain personality traits.