Study: Women Perform Better in Leadership Skills than Men

With a database that comprehensively analyzes – with historical data – and a 360º focus on the effectiveness of some leaders, it has been found that women in leadership positions are perceived as more effective than men in the same positions.

Despite this, the percentage of women in leadership positions within companies has remained the same for some years. Only 4.9% of Fortune magazine’s top 500 CEOs are women. For managerial positions in Mexico, only 5.3% percent of the boards of directors have women.

There are multiple factors that contribute to this shortage of women in leadership positions. For centuries there have been cultural biases against women, and these stereotypes have been slow to disappear. A large number of studies have brought to the table of discussion how these unconscious biases clearly influence the processes of hiring and promoting companies.

However, within companies, women are perceived (mainly by their male colleagues) as more effective at any level of leadership and functional area of ​​the company (including departments that are considered men’s strongholds such as information technology, operations and the legal department)

The 360º study carried out by Zenger / Folkman reveals the following data:

Capacity Percentile Women Percentile Men
Take the initiative 55.6% 48.2%
Resilience 54.7% 49.3%
Practice self-development 54.8% 49.6%
Focus on results 53.9% 48.8%
Integrity and honesty 54.0% 49.1%
Develop others 54.1% 49.8%
Inspire and motivate others 53.9% 49.7%
Daring leadership 53.2% 49.8%
Build relationships 53.2% 49.9%
Adaptable to change 53.1% 49.8%
Set short-term goals 52.6% 49.7%
Collaboration and teamwork 52.6% 50.2%
Connection to the external world 51.6% 50.3%
Powerful and effective communication 51.8% 50.7%
Problem resolution 51.5% 50.4%
Speed ​​and efficiency 51.5% 50.5%
Innovation 51.4% 51%
Technical and professional capacity 50.1% 51.1%
Develop strategic perspectives 50.1% 51.4%

Source: Zenger Folkman 2019

Women achieved a higher percentile in 17 of 19 of the key skills in this 360º review

Another interesting point in this study is that within the group that makes up the women surveyed: the self-evaluations were not so generous .

This company has been collecting data since 2016 (with 3,876 men and 4,779 women) and they have protocols to acquire various types of information. There are different types of self-evaluations, one in particular is what draws our attention, the self-evaluation of self-esteem and confidence.

When comparing confidence between men and women, a noticeable difference is seen in the under-25 age group. Many women are much more competent than they think, while men are very confident that they are more competent than they actually can be.

For the 40-year-old group, the confidence indices stabilize for the two samples, as age increases, so does confidence; surprisingly after the age of 60, this confidence begins to decline for the group of men, while women continue to increase.

According to the data, men earn only 8.5 percentile confidence points from 25 to 60+, while women earn 29 percentile points.

These results fit with other studies showing that women tend not to apply to positions for which they do not believe they meet all the listed qualifications. A woman and a man with a similar background and training may not come to the same conclusion about being prepared for a position.

Source: Zenger Folkman 2019

These low levels of trust in younger women may motivate them to take more initiative, be more resilient, and more receptive to feedback, making them more effective leaders in the long term.

Similar trends exist in women’s perception of leadership effectiveness issues, with the percentile increasing as age increases. Again, younger women tend to self-evaluate below men, and as age increases, the percentiles increase until they reach above men.

It is essential for companies and leaders to look inside the problem and discover that it is stopping the advancement of women in their organizations, clearly biases and “retrograde mentalities” are a big part of the problem. However, it is imperative to evolve this status quo (for both men and women) and open up to new recruitment and internal promotion processes.

There are few training programs focused on attacking this problem in Mexico, many companies have a lot of female talent, little developed and that could be a differentiator of growth (economic, social and moral) for the future


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