I began this article before the pandemic, after meeting several female business owners of financial service businesses.  I heard the statement above many times, in various guises, and It sparked my interest. Do women delegate less than men and, if so, how might this impact on their business?

Do women delegate less than men?

The empirical evidence suggests that women do delegate less than men. An article in the Academy of Management, ‘To Delegate or Not to Delegate’ by Modupe Akinola, Ashley E. Martin and Katherine W. Phillips (16 August 2018) concluded ‘effectively delegating work to others is considered critical to managerial success, as it frees up managers’ time and develops subordinates’ skills. We propose that female leaders are less likely than male leaders to capitalise on these benefits of delegating’. 

Surprisingly, the research also found that when women do delegate, they can be less considerate about it than their male counterparts. This may be due to nerves or a lack of experience. 

What I found

The women I spoke with take enormous pride in the quality of their work and the service they provide to clients. They are highly regarded and command a loyal client base. The potential downside is that they can be reluctant to trust others to do as good a job as them and so are slow to delegate when they can and perhaps should.  For the same reason they can also hold back on recruiting staff.

This behavioural style has a range of impacts. On the positive side, work is completed to a high standard.  However, these women are often working very long hours to achieve this result, while managing family commitments. One woman told me that if she had her time again, the first thing she would do is to get more childcare support. Trying to do it all significantly slowed the growth of her business. 

Why should women delegate?

There are many potential benefits for female business owners when they delegate more. They include:

  • More time and ability to focus on higher-level tasks.
  • Staff members can learn and develop new skills.
  • Developing trust and better communication within the business.
  • Improved efficiency, productivity, and time management.

Some ideas for effective delegation 

  • List everything that you personally MUST do that is vital to the business. Anything else is a potential opportunity to delegate.
  • Set clear objectives in relation to tasks and activities that you choose to delegate (the why and what are especially important).
  • Ensure a match between the challenge of tasks set and the skill set of the person that you delegate to. (This doesn’t mean that tasks shouldn’t be stretching).
  • Establish a feedback loop both during, and after, the iteration of the task or project that you delegate. Delegation works best when individuals get feedback on ‘how am I doing, what has been learnt, what does this mean?’

Conclusion

We now face a pandemic where women are running businesses with their staff in different locations. Many will be home schooling children as well. 

Necessity is the mother of invention; video conferencing tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams are great tools to support important business activity like delegation.

Now is the time to breathe, take stock and consider that help is at hand and others can truly do some jobs as well as you.

Thank you for reading this; I hope you have found this helpful. 

 
Arah Perrett Founder and Owner
hello@arahperrett.co.uk