European Network For Women in Leadership – Interview: Laurent Derivery, CEO of Valeurs & Developpement

Laurent Derivery is the CEO of Valeurs & Developpement, a consulting firm specialized in Management, Human Resources and Diversity. V&D bases its approach of diversity on researches and studies conducted in partnership with public and private actors.

WIL: Valeurs & Developpement co-piloted a study with IMS-Entreprendre pour la Cité on gender and stereotypes in 2012. Could you please tell us more about this study and its outcomes?

L: The study was conducted with 1200 managers in 9 different enterprises, and among them, about 300 were interviewed on their perception of gender stereotypes. The study focused on three types of stereotypes:

– Autostereotype: what a man/woman think of his/her gender group (what women think of other women, and men of men)

– Heterostereotypes: What a man/a woman think of the other gender group

– Metastereotypes: what a person thinks the other gender group think about him/her (what a woman thinks another man think about her; what a man thinks another woman think about him)

First we discovered that both men and women’s autostereotypes are positive, which is a constructive evolution compared to previous results. It means that women and men have a good image of themselves. What is interesting is that when it comes to heterostereotypes: men have a very good opinion of women, and they even have a better opinion of women than they have of themselves, while it is exactly the contrary for women. They have a bad image of men.

Additionally, it is worth to be noted that, the more women take on leadership positions within a company, the more men and women’s stereotypes turn negative. Women have a good image of women in operational positions, an “ok” image of women in managerial positions and a bad opinion of C- level women managers. They do not want to identify themselves with these women.

How do you explain that? Would you say women are impacted negatively by stereotypes associated with leadership positions?

Currently, C-level women suffer from a very negative image and are not role models for other women in lower positions. There is a strong perception, shared by women and men, that these women tend to be career-minded and adopt a tougher managerial style. Many of them behave like men and adopt a masculine attitude to be respected.

In that case, what would be a good manager, according to the respondents?

A surprising outcome of the study is that both men and women agreed on gender based differences between a male manager vs a female manager: Men are perceived as more gifted in leadership skills, i.e. tough skills (action, decision making) while women are more gifted in soft skills (empathy, compassion behavior skills). That is one key learning. On the other hand, when men and women are asked to describe their ideal manager, they agreed on an androgynous profile: someone very balanced, who possesses a combination of “tough” skills and “behavioral” skills.

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