Women are better leaders – and it's backed by science!

Updated: Jun 3

Women are better than men in terms of leadership skills, studies show. So let's finally embrace female leadership!


Photo: Brooke Lark

Of course, one study mightn't be enough for scientific proof. But what if I tell you that Zenger and Folkman already conducted the same study among another couple of thousand people back e “taking initiative”, “resilience”, “practicing self-development” or “a drive for results”. And guess what – as their studies show, women score better than men at nearly all of those aspects.


Zenger and Folkman monitored the gender-disparity in management-positions for years. The results are stunning.


🔬 It's a fact – proven again and again

To give you some context – for the study mentioned, Zenger and Folkman surveyed the leadership skills of 4.779 women and 3.876 men between 2016 and 2019. What they found is that women outscored men in 17 of the 19 categories that differentiate an excellent leader from an average one.

Of course, one study mightn't be enough for a scientific prove. But what if I tell you that Zenger and Folkman already conducted the same study among another couple of thousand people back in 2012 – with the same result!?



Considering this outcome, how can it be that women are so immensely underrepresented in leadership positions? The proportion of female board members in Austria just barely hit 26 % – and that’s mostly just because of a recently issued quota of 30 %. Internationally, the situation is even worse: Only 6,6% of Fortune-500-CEOs are women. And within the companies listed on the S&P-index, the proportion of female CEOs is 5,4 %. Let that sink... it’s the 21st Century and the top 500 companies of the US have a female-leadership-rate of 5,4%.


🦸🏼‍♀️ You ARE qualified!

One reason why the disparity is so large might be that women often underestimate themselves while men are generally overconfident, Zenger and Folkman write. Everyone who has worked at a few companies probably has experienced this first-hand.


Looking at the evidence, while women are just as – if not more – effective than their male counterparts in leadership positions, they tend to lack opportunities. On one hand this can, of course, be traced back to the difference in confidence, but for the most part, it’s the fault of bad promotion politics.  



Interestingly, the findings regarding confidence apply to the whole professional life of a person – not just for leadership but also in terms of applying and job-hunting. For example, Zenger and Folkmann argue that women might only apply for a job when they fit the requirements while men are more overconfident about their skills and apply – even when they don’t fit the criteria. 


🚧 Unfortunate hardships

Looking at the evidence, while women are just as – if not more – effective than their male counterparts in leadership positions, they tend to lack opportunities. On one hand this can of course be traced back to the difference in confidence, but for the most part it’s the fault of bad promotion politics. 


As Zenger and Folkman put it in in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review: “If 96 out of 100 people currently serving in comparable positions are male, and you are making the decision about who to promote, and you have a highly qualified female and a highly qualified male, what are you inclined to do? It may seem safer to choose the man?”


Decision-makers are influenced by an unconscious bias.

In cases like these, decision-makers are influenced by an unconscious bias. They perceive women as not-so-good decisions because of certain stereotypes. And they don't even notice. Luckily, managers and consultants are increasingly becoming aware of the problem now. But still, it’s a long way to go – and the best thing we all can do to battle this kind of bias is to raise awareness and show that women kick ass!


🧗🏾‍♀️ Become part of the revolution! 

Want to be part of the change? Whether you’re a woman or a man there’s definitely something you can do to make this world a more equal place. First of all, if you’re a decision-maker, you might try becoming aware of your unconscious biases and rethink seemingly straight-up decisions.


If you feel like you could be qualified, you probably are.

Secondly, if you’re a leader, scientist, technician, creative or anything else in-the-making, remember that a good amount of confidence is incredibly useful in today’s business world. And if you feel like you could be qualified, you probably are.


Do you want to give yourself a headstart? Why not join us at the the female factor? We're a network for professional and personal development from and for women – helping you to crush it at every aspect of life. In any case, there’s nothing that can stop you: Because your awesomeness is backed by science.

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