There has been a lot of discussion in the past few months about how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting women differently than men, with the UN going so far as to say that the pandemic is having “devastating social and economic consequences for women and girls.” The pandemic exposes social inequalities and the aftereffects hit marginalized communities harder, disproportionately affecting women’s livelihoods, especially since women are still expected to take on most of the burden of childcare while schools and daycares remain closed.
These discrepancies appear in corporate life as well, with outlets including The Atlantic, CNBC, BBC News, and The Wall Street Journal covering the negative impact of coronavirus on women in the workforce. One recent report found that women are currently twice as likely to leave their employer as their male counterparts and have 20% lower scores on socio-emotional wellbeing measures.
Despite these discouraging findings and predictions, females in leadership positions during the crisis have more than risen to the challenge. Women generally have different management styles than men, leading by listening, inspiring, and offering clear guidance and expectations, a style that lends itself well to managing during a crisis.
Given the myriad conversations happening around gender in the workplace and female leadership during crises, we were curious what our data say about gender differences in managerial digital behavior. We analyzed the digital behaviors of 808 managers (346 female, 462 male) at two Fortune 500 companies from May–September 2020 to answer this question. There were some very interesting results.
We found that in a fully remote, post-COVID world, female managers spend more time communicating with their direct reports than male managers. This manifests in more hours per day conversing digitally, more days per month communicating, and more ad-hoc meetings requested, both by the manager and by her direct reports.
Female managers’ communication is also more dense than that of their male counterparts, as evidenced by female managers sending and receiving longer messages than male managers, recognizing their direct reports more often, sharing doubts and opinions with them more often, and asking for feedback more often than male managers.
Interestingly, all of this extra communicating appears to be taking place during working hours. Female managers multi-task more often, sending more messages than male managers during meetings. Their incoming and outgoing communication density is also higher during the workday.
This extra communication does not cause female managers to send more messages after hours, however. Male and female managers send and receive roughly the same number of messages after work hours and during the weekend, indicating that female managers are able to communicate more with their direct reports without sacrificing work-life balance of their team.
Due to the limits of our data set, we were not able to analyze gender differences in managerial digital behavior in the pre-Covid world, or how it changed between then and now. This is certainly an area that merits further study and we hope to examine it in greater detail in the future.