I read the new survey by Zenger Folkman “Women do it Better than Men”, as featured in the Harvard Business Review last week, covering the differences in leadership between men and women this morning with a heavy heart…
The good news is that in 12 of the 16 categories women were ranked higher than men by their peers, their bosses and by their direct reports. And not only on the traditional softer areas like nurturing.
“Specifically, at all levels, women are rated higher in fully 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership. And two of the traits where women outscored men to the highest degree — taking initiative and driving for results — have long been thought of as particularly male strengths. As it happened, men outscored women significantly on only one management competence in this survey — the ability to develop a strategic perspective.”
“Why are women viewed as less strategic? This is an easier question to answer. Top leaders always score significantly higher in this competency; since more top leaders are men, men still score higher here in the aggregate. But when we measure only men and women in top management on strategic perspective, their relative scores are the same.”
We know women are at least as good leaders as men, and yet 78% of top management is male and 67% of the next level down are men. For many CEO searches there are never even any women candidates on the list so having a woman at the top is not an option. It’s just still very hard for women competing to get to the top of companies. Women quoted in the article speak to the need to work harder to prove themselves and the constant pressure to never make a mistake.
I gave a talk at the engineering school at San Jose State University last week and less than 10% of the students in the room were women. Of course I took the opportunity to talk about FirstRain and our fantastic technology – and asked them to apply for a job with us when they graduate if they are great software engineers. But I also spoke about the need to build teams with women in them, and how that takes deliberate action to build a culture that is flexible and supports diversity. And as I looked out across the room I wondered if my words have any impact?
I am teaching at Berkeley Haas School of Business late this afternoon – talking about How to plan Resources for your new company. There will be 200-300 students and since it’s a business school maybe 30% will be women, and this time I don’t plan to talk about gender diversity, and yet diversity itself is a way to get maximum value out of your resources so maybe I should.
I read the study with a heavy heart this morning because, despite all evidence to the contrary, the perception is women are not as good leaders and when they get to the top they are bitches. It’s portrayed in the media, it’s rife in the comments in the article, in movies women are not portrayed as leaders and in corporate America I sit in conversation after conversation where “he” is the default pronoun. I get tired of saying “he or she” against the headwind.
But maybe it’s just Monday morning and I don’t have my girl-riveted metal armor on yet for the week. Time to suit up!