A Paper On
Understanding determinants of Emotional Intelligence
among women in the workplace

First Author:
Dr. Neetu Purohit
Co Author:
Keshaw Kumar
Sanjeev Ranjan
Preeti Gupta
Post Graduate Diploma in Health/Hospital Management
Institute of Health Management Research

Times have changed and with it, organizations are ushering into new era of thinking and modernization. While new thinking has not swept the traditional mode of operations, organizations are fast assimilating the traditional and modern approaches. Gone are the days when the employees were promoted solely on the basis of paper degree and past work experience. The rules of work are constantly changing and new yardsticks are being used to recruit and evaluate the performance of employees. Decisions regarding hiring and firing employees and retaining, sidelining or promoting them are based on both IQ and EI.

The organizations took their own time to recognize the concept of EI. Perhaps, the finding that successful managers who score highly on measures of emotional intelligence also tend to have high IQ scores and therefore EI intelligence is not contradictory to traditional intelligence helped in its actual acceptance by the organizations. Today's organizations, particularly corporate are known to use IQ as a criterion for recruitment and EQ for promotions.

Working women are no longer a rarity and are now accepted as an integral part of the working force. Organizations have experienced a steady increase in the number of women employees and this pattern is bound to continue in the future as well.

However, women have begun to join the ranks of managers in large numbers. However, women at the top management positions are still a rare species. Globally, they comprise only 10 percent of senior managers in Fortune 500 companies, less than 4% are in the uppermost ranks of CEO, president, executive vice-president and COO, and less than 3% of them are top corporate earners. The 2005 study that focused on women corporate officers and top earners of the Fortune 500 Companies found that average Fortune 500 company women occupied only 9.4 % of clout titles (those higher than vice president), up from 7.9% in 2002.

However, a study specifically targeting the Indian Corporate, conducted by Purushothaman, The Future Group reported that women's employment participation grew to 31 % in 2005 from 26 % in 2000. A previous study conducted by NASSCOM revealed that in the Indian industry the percentage of women would grow from 30% to 45% by 2010. The male female ratio is also expected to improve from 76:24 in 2005 to 65:35 by end of 2008. 

Despite all this feel-good news, Indian companies are also seriously short of women in senior management roles. According to a recent study, only 26.1% of the listed companies (392 of 1,500) have a woman on their boards. Out of the 278 directors on the BSE Sensex companies, there are only 10 women directors.

Gender discrimination appears to be the most obvious reason behind the low participation of women in the work place. But while the discrimination which limits entry of the women into the work place, its roots are in the family and society, the discrimination which limits entry of the women to the top notch positions, its roots are in the organization policies and preferences.

Almost all the organizations have nothing overtly discriminatory against women. With the acceptance of EI in workplace, the concerns have been expressed with regard to the manner in which men and women would be similar or different on different attributes of EI and more importantly how organizational culture would help or hinder men and women in developing or even sustaining EI and reach to top positions. Since EI has been known to be an important attribute of all those, particularly women who could reach to senior most positions, this paper attempts to understand determinants of EI at the work place.

Difference between males and females on EI

Findings of research studies are mixed with regard to difference between male and females on EI. While authors like Daniel Goleman disagrees that women have higher EI, he accepts that gender might be proficient in particular emotional intelligence competencies. A few other research studies have shown that some women score higher on measures of emotional intelligence and though men sometimes score higher on specific traits.

Few other studies have shown that both men and women have their unique strengths and their unique lessons to be learned. Who has more EI is actually dependent on their choice. It might hold true had men and women both were given equal opportunities to think and make choice. A glance at our socialization process will convey that this is far away from reality and this is the reason that people, men, and women differ in their EI. The point gets support from few other studies, which show that people differ in the display of EI competencies at home and at work. EI is life centric. The study is founded on the premise that the gender role dynamics affect EI behavior differently for men and women and that the degree and features of the difference is affected primarily by cultural factors .Women display a higher level of their competencies at home and men at work. A correlation analysis revealed that the difference in behavior is related to masculinity/ feminist dimension of culture and human values in the case of women. 

Further studies have also shows that gender stereotyping blocks women development. One of the study found that men viewed women as superior in only two out of 10-leadership behavior, i.e., 'supporting and rewarding subordinates'. Often the 'taking charge' skills-the stereotypically masculine behaviors are seen a prerequisite for the top-level positions.

Now, one might safely say that these studies are perception based and it is in the hands of women to change the perception and strive and reach the heights. This is what which is and has been actually done by the all those women who have reached to the top positions. It was the strong driving force of these women, which could lead them to top positions despite the roadblocks. It is perhaps because of the difficulty in reaching to the top that actually motivated these few women to make to the senior positions.

Thus the most pertinent and consistent finding is that managers, male or females who utilize emotional intelligence competencies in their leadership styles are evaluated highly. And since EI could be intentionally learned, managers could lead more successfully by adopting emotional intelligence competencies. 

Nevertheless, the question arises is that whether the organizations provide many opportunities to their employees, particularly women so that they could learn or enhance their EI competencies? This paper attempts to understand determinants of emotional Intelligence in the work place in view of Daniel Goleman's model with self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills as the key competencies.

Since EI could be learned, the paper emphasis that the individual could develop particular characteristics of emotional Intelligence. While role of socialization is indisputable in this regard, the organizational climate also has its contribution to make. It is well accepted that gender disparity exists in the society and most women have faced some kind of discrimination at family or society and it was only after fighting against the odds that they were able to get an entry into the organization. Once the entry is made, which is primarily based on IQ, the role of organization's climate governed by its written or unwritten policies and preferences becomes quite pertinent in providing an environment conducive for developing attributes of emotional intelligence and even sustaining them. The level of EI has been found to be a positively related to leadership and therefore a determining factor in surviving and surmount to top position.

With the help of views expressed by women occupying high positions in different organizations in both India and broad, an attempt has been made to see how different Organizational environment affects the development of competencies of EI. Along with Emotional Competence, Daniel Golement et al in Primal Leadership, 2002, have included personal and social competence. These competencies further include Self Awareness, Self-management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management. Self-awareness means emotional self-awareness, accurate self-assessment, and self-confidence. The three competencies appear to be consequential and in an organizational setting, the organization policies will have a major role in determining whether an individual can excel in this competence. Until and unless organization would give opportunity to an individual to understand her emotional state and test and assess her self, in most cases, she would not be confident. For example, Mishra writes in her book "Karmic Divas' which encapsulates the success stories of eight Indian businesswomen about Kiran Mazumdar Shaw (CMD of Biocon), Kalpana Morparia (Vice-Chair for ICICI's Insurance, Security and Asset Management Business )and Naina Lal Kidwai (CEO, HSBC India ) that all faced gender discrimination in the beginning of their careers  but they did not give up. Even though Shaw was armed with an Australian degree known as best in brewing, various liquor firms in the country in late 70's "developed cold feet when it came to trusting her with a brewer" which finally paved the way for setting up of Biocon. Another example is Morparia, who would "have meandered into becoming a solicitor," had it not being for a failed interview with Hindustan Lever. Similarly, Kidwai reported to have been suffered rejection for accountant's post which involved lot of traveling and hence was 'unsuitable for women' in the book. These, women were among the undeterred ones, who had accurate assessment of themselves and therefore rather then loosing their self confidence, they kept on moving until they reached the helm of their career. What needs to be pointed out is that these were the 'extra' unexceptional women but not all women possess this 'extra' element in themselves. In addition, not having that 'extra' does not mean that they are just average or worse then men. They too might be even exceptional but the organization does not give them the opportunity to use their exceptional qualities and prove themselves and be confident about it. In this context, one of the women directors (FP500 Company) stated, "I always tell women that men are more confident than competent, and [that] women are more competent than confident, and [that] if you have to choose, and then choose confidence, because that sells".

Another competency is of self-management that includes emotional self-control, transparency, adaptability, achievement orientation, initiative, and optimism. While personal characteristics are important, organization has a major role to play in either promoting this competency or suppressing it. The organizations which claim to be against gender discrimination and which actually makes effort to be one, due to their sheer ignorance promote policies and programs which if doesn't discriminate against women neither do they recognize womanhood and thereby ultimately leads to some kind of unfairness and lessening of the number of women at the top positions. On the same lines, Rai (2008), Chief People Officer of Reliance BIG Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, in her article, beyond the glass ceiling wrote that, 'I have come across different women who struggled to make their presence felt and are successful in the corporate world. They are resourceful, determined, dynamic, resilient, and compassionate. I have seen them battling it out with pregnancy, childbirth, child rising, heartbreak, and husband raising….being the career women and running the household. Trying to be the best at workplace, trying to the super mom and worlds' best wife…. On the other hand, many highly educated women …do admit that they would really like to work part-time if at all and only at a pleasant job, so they can have ample time for home, family, friends etc…' 

According to studies and surveys, in addition to family responsibilities, women perceive male stereotyping, exclusion of women from informal networks as major barriers to their rise These are the reasons that a high percentage of women who graduate from business schools fail to pursue careers. Women working as hard as males or may be more than their male counterparts are likely to be paid less. Often, they are not given a raise simply because they "do not need it." They are often not considered competent enough, and get promotions at a slower rate. Surveys have shown that women executives in India earn 40 % less than what men earn over their entire career.

All theses things are indicative of the fact that even competent women prefer to withdraw themselves as organizations lack the sensitivity required to ensure that they are able to adapt with the organization culture, able to maintain work-family balance, are provided with the liberty to work in the department of their choice, take initiative so that they have high achievement motive and are able to deliver work with optimism for the future. One of the Women Directors, ( FP500 Company) stated , 'They're looking for people who can make a valuable contribution, and if you can present yourself in an environment where people can see you in action doing that, they'll consider you as a candidate and they'll consider you way faster than if you knock on someone's door and give them your résumé. It shows the importance of being innovative and visible but for all this is dependent on organizations' interest in using the talent and in being transparent so that all employees could avail the opportunities and prove themselves. 

The third competency is of social awareness that entails empathy, organizational awareness, and service orientation. It describes the ability to understand the emotional state of other people and how it will influence the organization. Social awareness can bridge many cultural differences and protocols. Empathy can allow a much better level of customer service and the ability to understand the aggravation experienced by employees.

On this particular competency, organizations appear to trust women, as these competencies are perceived as relatively more close to the competencies largely associated with women. In fact most of the times, it is a complained that women employees are primarily viewed as those who are good in HR and services related areas.

The forth competency is Relationship management which means developing others, inspirational leadership, change catalyst, influence, conflict management, teamwork and collaboration. This competency could be built at the organization level if women receive proper mentoring only if the organization.

Stating on the importance of communication and networking and visibility of the work, one of the women Directors, (FP500 Company) stated, 'When recruiters, whether they are board chairs, nominating committees, or formal recruitment firms, are mandated to look for new board members… they are looking into their various Rolodexes and databases and experiences to find those people who they think would make a good contribution to a board. And if you've been sitting in your office working busily away with your doors closed and the curtains drawn, nobody knows you're there, [so] don't expect them to call.' Whether it is a conscious attempt to keep women out of positions of power or a sub-conscious prejudice introduced by patriarchal mindsets, women often find themselves struggling to make themselves heard and be counted and therefore most of them prefer minding their own work which actually blocks their progress to the higher positions.  


It can therefore be concluded that if women are proficient in these competencies, their higher emotional intelligence scores might reduce the discrimination they face during attempts to rise in management positions, and instead advertise women as skilled leaders. However, this could become possible if the organization takes proactive decision and formulates policies, which promote participation and progress of women. The first question arises as to whether the organizations, in which females are working for, are treating them equal and giving them their rights. The biggest obstacle to any corporate change is the reluctance of leaders to see the need for this change. When an organization acknowledges and accepts that women should be full participants in the management of the organization, implementing a solution is neither difficult nor expensive.

One can visualize at least four actions that an organization could take that would not only ensure enhancement of EI but would also ensure that the women managers function as effectively as their male counterparts do

First, is to acknowledge the fundamental biological fact of maternity. The fact that women managers have babies does not alter their commitment to a job or the quality of their work. What discourages the expectant mother is the attitude of other people in the workplace? An organization that handles the matter sensitively by providing adequate and sensible maternity leave and parental leave policy will retain their best women managers. This will inspire their confidence and win their commitment. Organizations will earn loyalty of the women manager at a time when loyalty is a vanishing corporate virtue.

Second, is to provide flexibility for working parent, both women and men. Organizations need to accept parenthood as part of business. They need to move with the times and permit re-entry of women managers after they have had their stint in raising the children. With the advent of technology, organizations should be flexible to permit new parent from working at home. Organizations should take advantage of technology, of telecommuting etc. and learn how to measure real productivity, instead of counting hours spent at the office.

Third, is to provide women who already have basic leadership traits with additional management skills and tools that will contribute to enhanced performance. The good news regarding emotional forms of intelligence is that they can be easily learned, therefore, organizations could specifically keep training programs for enhancing the EI competency so that women could climb the ladder to high positions. Since progressive organizations aim to hire the best talent, both men and women, they should recognize that women face a tougher challenge than men do after they join the male dominated organization. Training, educating, and nurturing women mangers will ensure their accelerated growth after they have become comfortable in the workplace.

Fourth, is to improve the corporate environment by removing barriers that exist for women but not for men. Glass ceiling for women managers is an attitudinal hurdle. Organizations need to provide same challenging assignment to women, as men, which will tax them, stretch their potential, and provide a learning platform.


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First Author:
Dr. Neetu Purohit
Co Author:
Keshaw Kumar
Sanjeev Ranjan
Preeti Gupta
Post Graduate Diploma in Health/Hospital Management
Institute of Health Management Research

Source: E-mail September 16, 2008




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