Women are often underestimated in the world of business.
Some countries mark the month of March as National Women’s History Month. The UN celebrates the International Women’s Day every 8th of March where the said day recognises and celebrates the achievement of women.
So what better way to mark this day than by discussing a popular debate topic – do women make good leaders?
At the lowest levels of workplaces across the globe, over half of employees are women, but as you move up the organisational ladder, the number of women drop off dramatically. In fact, at the very top of the tree, as few as 4% of organisation leaders are female.
There are lots of discussions and claims out there about the way in which leadership between men and women differs. Traditionally, women are nurturing, empathetic and emotional. How do these traits and qualities translate into the world of business and leadership? Do they set us back or do they drive us forward?
One Harvard Business Review (HBR) survey looked at 16 key competencies that make a good leader (including taking initiative, developing others and inspiring/motivating colleagues).
The 7,280 results from the public and private sector companies proved the usual stereotypes – women rank higher than men in the so-called ‘nurturing’ competencies, such as building relationships. No surprises there.
But what was also interesting, was that women also excelled outside of the traditional ‘female’ strengths. Women were rated higher than men in 12 of the 16 competencies, and were rated overall better leaders by their peers. When it comes to two of the traits – taking initiative and driving for results – men are often assumed to be better at these, but it was women who topped the poll.
With the exception of the ‘ability to develop a strategic perspective, ’ in which men trumped women, women are highly regarded in leadership roles, because – not in spite – of their emotional and empathetic tendencies.
Women are often underestimated in the world of business. They can face sexism in the workplace, but also a lack of self-belief. Tradition places men at the top of organisational structures, but the tide is changing … slowly but surely. Studies like this, and many more, prove that people within business rate women as strong leaders. Having the respect of those you work with is half the battle. Qualities such as being emotional are not viewed as negative traits by them, but as a positive in forging relationships with colleagues and more importantly, driving and achieving results.
Let’s hope that not only the businesses out there take note of this, but women themselves. We need to have self-confidence to be able to go for the big jobs without fear of rejection or inferiority. Our traditionally ‘female’ traits do not have to be a barrier to success – they can be our reasons for success.