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Are women the best leaders?

Date

Luke Malone

Researchers found that women excelled in areas traditionally considered to be the domain of men.

Researchers found that women excelled in areas traditionally considered to be the domain of men.

Last month, the Harvard Business Review published an article entitled "Are Women Better Leaders than Men?"

In it, the CEO of US leadership development consultancy Zenger Folkman, Jack Zenger, and the company's president, Joseph Folkman, found that every one of the 7280 business leaders they surveyed - from executives and managers to supervisors and individual contractors - seemed to think so.

They found that women ranked almost exclusively higher than men when it came to 16 competencies that top leaders most exemplify. These included: inspiring, motivating and developing others, building relationships and collaboration and teamwork.

What most surprised the researchers was that women excelled in areas traditionally considered to be the domain of men.

"Our stereotypes have assumed that men were stronger in driving for results, championing change, taking initiative, and problem solving. Yet, women received higher scores on all those than did their male counterparts," said Zenger.

The survey also delivered some otherwise predictable statistics when it came to the percentage of men in positions of leadership. Holding the overall majority at 64 per cent, the higher up the chain the more those numbers increase, with men comprising 67 per cent of senior management roles and 78 per cent of top management positions.

Will the imbalance change?

A recent Newsweek story, "The rise of China's Billionaire Tiger Women", profiled four self-made tycoons and explained why the country's rapidly growing economy now boasts more female billionaires than any other nation.

It went on to describe a "New China" where women are excelling in business like never before.

Jillian Broadbent, one of Australia's most successful directors and board member of the Reserve Bank, says that when she first started out, women faced an unconscious lack of consideration of their candidacy for senior roles, with male bosses assuming they either wouldn't want them or couldn't do them. But, with the help of government policy, changing attitudes and supportive female mentors, the culture has slowly changed; not just for women but the workplace as a whole.

"You have more interest in individuals and the personal side of things and that can create a warmth in the workplace which mightn't have been there before," she said. "I think there's a greater awareness of the personal and individual elements of people in your team and people respond ... to that. I think there can be quite warmer relationships building at work when you've got a mix of genders."

Broadbent is pragmatic when it comes to having genuine equality in the workplace.

"I think it's just gradually building up the evidence of successful women staying there and keeping on," she said. "That just takes a long time to do, I don't think there's any magic wand."

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39 comments

  • Seems like most of the divisions between men and women in society is created by the media. On one hand it writes about inequality between men and women and then the other day there will surely an article on who is better out of men or women.

    Commenter
    David
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    May 07, 2012, 11:18AM
    • The problem with these sorts of articles is that it can encourage the divide and in some cases exacerbates the poor attitude that a few in the workplace already have towards women. Telling people that someone might be 'better' than them is going to raise hackles.

      Some men are good leaders and some women are good leaders. Let's try treating people as individuals.

      Commenter
      Ripley
      Location
      Hunting Aliens
      Date and time
      May 07, 2012, 11:37AM
    • Well said. People are either good leaders or not, gender is irrelevant.

      Commenter
      gg
      Date and time
      May 07, 2012, 2:38PM
    • Well said, gg, may I finish for you? Ta. Gender is irrelevant... unless you're a bloke! Listen up, ladies, it's us blokes that have gotten us this far in history. Since when have we made the chains long enough to get from the kitchen to the study? Bad management, that. Anyway, where's me sammich?

      Commenter
      Hugh Mungus
      Location
      Tronno
      Date and time
      May 07, 2012, 4:18PM
    • I agree. The outcome of this study should be positive, but it's reported in a divisive manner designed to get people's backs up. I'm surprised that anyone needed a study to discover that men and women could both be good managers. A balance of both is ideal; a completely female or male orientated leadership team may result in conflict, but ultimately better balanced decisions.

      Commenter
      SS
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 07, 2012, 5:12PM
  • I guess this is why senior men keep promoting junior men: the women might overtake them too fast. The fact that women outnumber men at uni, and have for some time, but get paid less on graduation and continue to do so, and have to be twice as good to get promoted, tells me equality in the workplace is a long way off. Not helped by women who think raising children is a career (reality check, working women raise them too), and their husbands who are happy to have a house slave.

    After 22 years in a male-dominated profession, I saw very average men continually promoted above more competent women. The old men in charge felt more comfortable working with men, because their wives were all housewives & that's how they thought it ought to be. I actually had bosses tell me I should be at home with my kids! (pretty funny, as I was the main breadwinner while my husband finished studying). And these are the people choosing promotions, who gets the good work, and how much you get paid! Women probably ARE better at these tasks, but plenty of men (And women, surprisingly) are very hostile to women actually taking on those roles.

    Commenter
    Hmmm
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    May 07, 2012, 11:42AM
    • so true!

      Commenter
      Over the glass ceiling
      Date and time
      May 07, 2012, 3:51PM
    • @Hmmm

      Bitter..... Much?

      Commenter
      Xela
      Location
      melb
      Date and time
      May 08, 2012, 12:14AM
    • Also Hmmm... One could hardly call working women actually raising kids - its the nannies, child care workers and teachers that seem to do most of the raising while the "working mums" are at work..... working. Just if you want to get all technical about it.

      Something YOU may have missed, is that a lot of SAHM actaully CHOOSE to do this. Not many get told they have to. Feminists have fought for CHOICE. Not necessarily the REQUIREMENT to go off and have a *CAREER* and climb the corporate ladder - something most people, male and female, have got mixed up and have ran with it ever since, dragging this whole business to barking up the wrong tree, and in the process pitted men against women.
      Perpetuating the whole cycle... but at the same time moving our society into a whole new paradigm in which both men and women suffer... and with it our relatioships, our families, and in the end our communities... but... you go ahead and spread your hatred stemming from your own bitterness because of your frustration with your ineffectiveness at climbing the corporate ladder you so vehemently aspired to while at the same time swirling in your guilt regarding your children and your lack of being more of a mother to them.

      Commenter
      Xela
      Location
      melb
      Date and time
      May 08, 2012, 12:33AM
    • Actually, Xela, I just resent discrimination. And no, Xela, I think adults should support themselves and set an example to children that women actually contribute & matter in society too, not just at home. And as far as "ineffectiveness at climbing the corporate ladder" goes, I was a partner in a law firm and am now a successful barrister, so you have widely missed the mark there. My point was that I saw many women give up their profession because it was made too hard for them. Women like you who pretend working women somehow neglect their kids (we don't, the SMH actually reported a study last year which showed working women spend MORE individual time with their kids than SAHM's) are unhelpful. I don't use a cleaner or nanny, I have a husband who shares responsibility for the kids equally, and we juggle it. I feel no guilt whatsoever at having 2 bright, happy kids with equal parents.

      Commenter
      Hmmm
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 10:01AM

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