This is a loaded question if there ever was one, and the answer can be stated in a few different ways.
According to a recent report by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee (citing a 2009 McKinsey study), business performance correlates directly with women’s representation in corporate leadership.
- Return on invested capital is 66% higher in firms with strong female representation, return on equity is 53% higher, and return on sales is 42% higher.
This finding was echoed in a blog called Women On Business, which cited a study from Pepperdine University that profits at Fortune 500 firms that most aggressively promoted women were 34 percent higher by industry means.
Clearly there is an advantage to having women in management and the C-suite, so should companies be looking more at women in leadership, since the profits and returns are there?
The answer is yes, they should, although perhaps not for the reasoning you think. Certainly there is an equality issue, and that is critical, because although we’ve come a long way in breaking the glass ceiling, there is still a long way to go (women’s pay is still comparatively less and there are a whopping 15 women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies as reported here). So, what does this mean for women as executives?
I believe, though, that the reason comes back to cognitive diversity and a broader perspective on leadership. On Cisco’s company blog, in a post titled “Innovation through Diverse Perspectives,” Sallie Bale makes this point, stating:
- “…it is not really about a gender issue. It is about diversity of perspectives and experience in the workplace where experience means so much more than what companies you have worked for.”
This diversity of perspectives is extremely important in looking at leadership and performance and is what Emergenetics echoes. Our findings, just published from a renorming of over 50,000 Profiles from around the world, highlight the different ways that men and women think and behave. Our data is meticulously studied regularly, and the latest findings showcase some interesting gender differences:
- Males scored higher in Analytical thinking and slightly higher in Conceptual and Structural thinking and Assertiveness
- Females scored higher in Social thinking and slightly higher in Expressiveness and Flexibility
It stands to reason that for incredibly large and complex organizations (as well as medium and small companies with their own set of complexities) to succeed, leadership needs to advance all of these elements of thinking and behavior. It is the diversity in thinking and approaches to interaction that creates more effective workplaces and more inspired workforces.
So I guess the answer to the question, “Are women better executives than men?,” is that no matter what your gender, leadership needs to encompass an array of approaches and styles that fit the needs of a diverse company. Ideally, you’d have both women and men executives leading the charge.
Mark E. Miller
Director of Marketing