Women: Do Your Managers Really Need Managing?

Women: Do Your Managers Really Need Managing?

Men and women are different. They are motivated and inspired differently. It’s not hard to see then that they may need something different from their manager. However, not all managers are aware of that yet. If they were, the results could be huge and could impact engagement rates, attrition and progression of women.

“For most people, the idea of managing their manager is quite difficult”, explains Inge Woudstra, Director of and author of . “They expect their manager to know what they are doing, and find it hard to accept that a manager may need managing too!”

“It is easy to see why managers may not always get it right when working with women”, Inge continues. “The way most people learn is by looking at others; role models. Most managers are male, so both male and female managers pick up ways of managing that work for men”.

Managers also learn about leadership from books, articles and training programmes. Interestingly though, almost all of the leadership research is based on test groups of mostly males, and when working with mixed gender groups results are not always differentiated for males and females.

It’s easy to understand then, that managers have learned to manage in a way that works for men.

How do Women Differ From Men?

“Firstly, women need to be aware of what their own needs are, and how they differ from those of men”, advises Inge. “It’s a matter of personal reflection; how would you like to be valued, rewarded and receive feed-back. What inspires, motivates and encourages you?”

It can be helpful to be aware of some of the ways in which men and women usually differ:

  • Women often prefer to involve others when grappling with an issue, and then be rewarded for their input as well as for end-results. Men tend to prefer solving the issue on their own, then being rewarded for the end-result.
  • Most women like to be given airspace in a meeting, whereas men tend to enjoy the battle for air space.
  • Women usually prefer to be encouraged to go for a new job role, whereas men may put themselves forward on their own initiative (regardless of whether others think they are ready).

“Once you know what it is you need, you need to find ways to communicate those insights to your manager”, Inge concludes. “Sometimes it can work in a formal feed-back conversation, like a 360 process or as part of the annual review cycle. However, there are more subtle ways too, and often those can be enough”.

So, women, are you getting what you need from your manager? Perhaps it’s time you helped them out.


Inge Woudstra works with organisations on female talent management, and specialises in gender difference at work. She also runs Gender Smart training programmes for leaders, managers and women.

To get in touch, please call 01372 457907 or visit