People are more critical of women leaders for mistakes than men, study finds

At the executive level, women need a thick skin.

According to research from the Yale School of Management published in the Harvard Business Review, women in generally male-dominated occupations face much higher criticism after making mistakes than men.

In one study, researchers gave participants a fictional news story about a big city preparing for a major protest rally. In the scenario, the rally grew out of hand. The chief didn't send enough police officers to the scene, and consequently 25 people were seriously injured. When asked to rate how the police chief handled the situation, participants gave 10 percent lower ratings to a woman chief than a man.

The researchers repeated similar studies for other traditionally male jobs — the CEO of an engineering firm and a state Supreme Court chief justice. In both scenarios, decisions that backfired generated harsher scrutiny for female leaders than men, according to the report. The only scenario in which male leaders were criticized more harshly for mistakes than women was when a man filled a role typically held by women — a male president of a women's college.

Ultimately, the researchers concluded that people find it easier to forgive a poor decision when the leader who makes it is in a gender-appropriate role. Unfortunately, men have much bigger territory in this regard than women. Whether in politics, finance, law, sports or the military, men dominate. With women vulnerable to harsher scrutiny for mistakes than men, it's no wonder people are quick to call female bosses "micromanagers," "risk-averse" or other gender-based stereotypes, according to the report. 

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