More Women, Better Leadership?

In a recent article by one of my former (favorite) professors from my MS program, Bob Sutton writes that Adding Women Makes Your Group Smarter. In addition to being an interesting and engaging professor, he is known for writing ‘The No A**holes Rule’ and ‘Good Boss, Bad Boss’.

women working

Women working

Prof Sutton references a recent story from CNBC, which states that companies with more than one woman on their board did better (from a financial performance point of view) than those with no woman on the board. He also calls upon a study done by Science dailytwo years ago, which was not conducted to study the effect of gender on group performance, but found that groups with more women performed better. Further analysis revealed that the effect seemed to be explained by the higher social sensitivity exhibited by females, on average. “So having group members with higher social sensitivity is better regardless of whether they are male or female,” Woolley explains.”

There is another take on women being good leaders. Two years ago Psychology Today had an article about Why Women Make Better Leaders than Men. Though some of their statements and conclusions are pretty bold, their most simple answer to the question is that most leaders actually fail (short tenures, success is due to other factors than what the leaders have done). A scholar on this topic, Dr. Alice Eagly says that according to her studies women are more likely to have the leadership qualities that could lead to success – being more transformational than men because they have the tendency to care more about their subordinates and to inspire them to do the tasks at their best.

In a more recent article by Barbara and Shannon Kelly ask why there aren’t more women leading, referencing a study from early this year in Harvard Business Review by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman. According to this study women outdid men in all but one of the 16 competency levels. The Kelly’s say that even if women are thought to be better than men when it comes to leadership qualities there are some things that hold them back – the workplace and expectations are designed to the 1950s era, when typically one person worked and the other took care of the home and life.

We do not live in the 50’s era where women just stayed at home taking care of her family. We now live in the 21st century where the husband and wife BOTH play crucial roles in taking care of the financial aspect of their families. We are connected all of the time, making it difficult to separate work and personal obligations (but also giving us the flexibility to draw boundaries in different ways).

Another take on this subject (and referencing the same HBS study) is an article from Forbes. In response to the question ‘Why is it that even if women are conceived as better leaders only a few numbers of corporations have women in their top management levels or even in the board?’, the article says that women don’t self-promote. They do their best with the task on hand but they don’t make strategies to go out there and be able to go to the next level. Another contributor is the fact that at this point in time men are still in the top most positions and senior men tend to hire other men. That is why when we hear about men appointing women in their boards, it still makes news. People are questioning the appointment because it was a woman appointed. But if it happened to be another men there would just be all praises for the achievement.

In my previous article I have noted that there is a rise in the number of women in top management positions in the Fortune 500 companies (though there were only 18 female CEO’s at the start of 2012). We’ve gained Marissa Mayer since then – woohoo!

So what do you think is going on here? The number of women in the top position is rising but not enough to show that women indeed are leaders in the top management field. What still needs to be done? I’d love to hear your views…

About Tamra Johnson

I’m an entrepreneur and a recent MBA graduate from UCLA Anderson. I have 10 years of experience in IT Management and Systems Engineering. I love learning, helping others, exploring the world around me, running at the beach, going to concerts, and visiting family and friends. I grew up in Helotes, Texas, went to undergrad in Cambridge, MA, and now live in Venice, CA.
This entry was posted in Ambition, Leadership, Women and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to More Women, Better Leadership?

  1. Pingback: The Rise of Women in the Defense Industry | Exploring the Challenges and Opportunities for Women in Business, Technology and Leadership

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