Male vs Female symbol
Mark Miller | VP of Marketing, Emergenetics International

Mark Miller | VP of Marketing, Emergenetics International

This of course is a loaded question about women in leadership and the answer can be stated in a few different ways.

According to a report by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee (citing a 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 leadership positions 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 have 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 re-norming 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 insights:

  • When the tool was first created 30 years ago- Males reported a stronger preference for Analytical, Structural, and Conceptual styles of thinking, and a preference in the more forceful and driving end of the Assertiveness spectrum. Conversely, females reported a stronger preference for Social thinking, and a preference for being in the talkative & gregarious end of the Expressiveness spectrum and in the welcoming of change end of the Flexibility spectrum
  • Since the 1980’s the differences between the way men and women report their preferences have been diminishing to the point where in 2015 there is actually no statistically relevant difference. That means men are just as likely to report a preference for Social style of thinking as women, and women are just as likely to report a preference for Analytical style of thinking as men.

Since it is the diversity in thinking and approach that creates more effective workplaces and more inspired workforces, it stands to reason that leadership needs to advance all of these elements of thinking and behavior- which the data shows are equally found in both men and women.

So I guess the answer to the question, “Are women better executives than men?” is that no matter 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.