I recently stumbled upon an article from Business Insider that outlined a study which makes a very bold claim. The article and associated study suggests that women are more effective leaders than men.
Now, if I could answer the title question without delving into the article or the associated study, I would have to say that the answer to this isn’t a simple ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. A lot of people from both genders have characteristics of great and effective leaders. To simply say in one sentence that women make more effective leaders than men, or vice versa, is asinine.
The study, conducted by leadership consultancy Zenger Folkman, examines some of the factors in which they found women leaders to be more effective than men. They found that overall women were more effective by about 2.7%. This is a considerable amount when you factor that the total sample for the study involved just under 16,000 leaders, of which one-third were female.
They go on to say that early in their careers, both women and men are about equal on the effectiveness scale. But as women matured, they were found to have increased in effectiveness. The main reason for this was because women were found to have been more apt to ask for feedback and to act on the results from it. And basically, when men matured they perceived themselves to be competent enough to not be concerned with additional feedback and deeper personal development. Of course, the surveys done to conclude the study are only showing a trend, and this does not mean that all women and all men are this way. Maybe this has something to do with why it is said that men never ask for directions either?
Another compelling reason for the increase in effectiveness is that a majority of women generally stated that in order to be perceived as effective as men, they had to work twice as hard and make less mistakes.
One of the clues for us came from talking with women about this research. When we ask them to explain why women were perceived as more effective, what we frequently heard was, “In order to get the same recognition and rewards, I need to do twice as much, never make a mistake and constantly demonstrate my competence.”
I wish this weren’t the case, but sadly I have heard it in conversation as well. A number of years back I heard my aunt talk of a glass ceiling. She was a very hard worker and had made some significant achievements all throughout her life, in family and in business. I didn’t quite know what she was referring to at the time, but she was basically saying that she may never be able to reach the peak she so desired even though she wanted it and had worked for it. This was appalling and unbelievable to me. I kind of brushed it off, but I still think about our conversation to this day.
Positive perception in senior positions
The article is concluded by referencing another survey which points out that as women climb the ladder and are put into more senior positions, they are perceived more positively. I would hope that every person in charge of hiring out there takes this data into consideration when selecting candidates for higher positions. Women are just as likely to perform exceptionally at a higher level as men, and for that matter at any level.
I wanted to share this because I think there is still a negative perception in the minds of some on the effectiveness of women in the workplace. As leaders, we need to move past any of that. As leaders it is our responsibility to recognize the true effectiveness of every individual on the team according to their actual performance. As leaders it is our responsibility to recognize any areas of improvement in our team and to do whatever it is that is necessary to make that team successful, regardless of the gender makeup.