It has long been a known fact that in almost all sectors, most leadership roles are overseen by males as opposed to females. For example, currently only 32% of MPs overall are women , In 2016, just 18% of the top 200 universities in the world had a female leader and only a third of senior management roles across all sectors in the UK are held by women. However, changes have been identified and it looks like the number of women in leadership roles across several sectors are increasing. But why is this?
Studies and Evidence
A recent study conducted by the head of Leadership and Organisational Behaviour at the BI Norwegian Business School: Professor Øyvind L. Martinsen, found that women make better leaders than men. Martinsen gathered almost 3000 managers and determined their personality and characteristics, including their leadership skills. In his findings, he concluded that overall women triumphed over men in four out of the 5 categories assessed. These categories were: initiative and clear communication; openness and ability to innovate; sociability and supportiveness; and methodical management and goal-setting.
In 2011, Zenger Folkman conducted some research and found that women have better overall leadership skills than their male counterparts. 16 competencies were looked at and rated by respondents. Out of the 16 competencies, females were rated more positively in 12 out of the 16 categories. Some of these categories included: taking initiative, practising self-development, high integrity and honesty, helping to develop others, building relationships and more.
Traditionally it is thought that women are better at communicating their ideas and articulating what they are thinking. According to Nitin Nohria ,a Harvard business school professor, the best leaders ‘spend the bulk of their time communicating, which is why some female leaders excel in this area.
Compassion and empathy
It has been suggested that being empathetic can strengthen successful leadership ability. A study in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology (1995) concluded that women copy other people’s emotional expressions much more than their male counterparts and as a result are much more likely to show empathy.
Women also have the ability to look at different perspectives and often look at and work problems out differently to men. They are also better at seeing things from different points of view. Women also like to find solutions to problems that will involve everyone in the process and utilising the different skill sets of various people for a better outcome overall.
Despite there being considerably less women leaders than male leaders in the workforce, women can make great managers and the business world could benefit from having more women at the top, as research has shown, they have many qualities that could help drive businesses and make them thrive. This is reflected in the slow but continued increase of women at the top.