Encouragement vs. Criticism – How Should We Manage Rising Women?

iStock_000010552869XSmallBy Jessica Titlebaum (Chicago)

In a recent article, Peter Ranscombe quotes Laura Morse, visiting lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as saying that women get more encouragement than criticism. She also said that bosses should push their female employees to realize their full potential and instead of patting them on the head, they need to push them through the door.

After reading the article, I was curious about what female managers in the financial industry thought of regarding the “criticism versus encouragement” debate. Are women receiving more encouragement than criticism? Does that stunt their professional growth? And are their other differences in the way men and women manage office behavior?

Same But Different

Robin Ross, managing director of interest rate products at the CME Group, the largest futures exchange in the world, said even if her male managers held back because she was a women, she always saw herself as equal to her male counterparts.

“I really didn’t think of myself differently,” said Ross. “I always saw myself just as capable and able to do what the men were doing.”

Even with the same capabilities, Ross believes there are some differences as to how men and women handle certain situations in the office. One of the situations in which women and men differ is in the way each shows their emotions.

She believes that women show their emotions more than men and has suggestions on how to handle heightened feelings in the work place. “Emotions happen in the workforce because we are human,” said Ross. “But give your colleagues fair warning when it happens.”

She also said to separate your emotions from your passion.

“Emotions occur when you aren’t thinking rationally and passion is more logical,” she said. “You want to be passionate and stand up for what you believe in.”

Another situation where men and women act differently that Ross pointed out, besides showing emotion, is the way in which groups of men approach a challenge compared to a group of women.

“Women have more of a collaborative approach to tackling a problem, they tend to see things on a level playing field,” said Ross. “The group of women take a divide and conquer approach while men generally react better to command and lead.”

Managing Criticism

Nancy Kaplan, head of business development for NYSE Euronext, the first transatlantic stock and derivatives exchange, believes that holding back on criticism stunts professional growth.

“I like constructive criticism because I will take what I am given and use it to improve myself,” said Kaplan. “I don’t act badly towards it.”

Kaplan also believes there is a difference in how men and women accept and manage criticism. “I think women are more open to criticism and process it better,” said Kaplan. “We consider it more logically.”

While women process criticism better, Kaplan believes that men come across more confident than their female counterparts.

“Men come across much more assured, confident, competent – it’s in their mannerisms,” said Kaplan. “Women don’t pretend when they aren’t sure of themselves. “

Encouragement versus Criticism

In an effort to help women, some experienced businesswomen encourage, more than criticize, the younger generation of women climbing the corporate ladder.

Regina Thoele, senior vice president of compliance at the National Futures Association, an entity that regulates futures markets, feels camaraderie with driven women because of their drive and ability to step up to the plate.

“I like seeing that fire in their eyes,” she said.

Thoele said that she relates to these women and provides more encouragement than criticism because women don’t always have the opportunity to get ahead.

The Only Women In The Room

With fewer opportunities, it is encouraging when you see a successful woman at the top of her game.

Robin Ross learned to manage being the only woman in the room and even has a standard joke.

“When I am out at a meeting and I am the only women, my joke is “how should we sit? Boy girl boy girl?”