A consensus is emerging that women make better leaders in business.
There is a growing body of research that compares financial performance with gender diversity at the top. According to Credit Suisse, companies with female board representation outperform those with no women on the board. Another study by Zenger Folkman has found that female leaders have the upper hand on their male counterparts with character traits like empathy, influence and conflict management.
It is also often said that women are more focused on the longer-term than their goal orientated male counterparts. This may go some way to explaining why companies which have women in leadership positions are less focused on short-term profits and give greater priority to environmental and social issues.
But despite this weight of evidence of the overwhelmingly positive impact of women in the workplace, women don’t seem to shout about their achievements as much as men according to a report by The Psychology of Entrepreneurs.
The report found that just 42% of successful business women claimed that their business was prospering, compared to 62% of males. Yet during the recession fewer woman-owned businesses were forced to downsize, just 8% compared with 12% for male owned ones. And fewer female-led businesses go bust, with less than a quarter doing so, compared to over a third of those owned by men.
“Men in management still seem to feel threatened by women with intelligence”, explains Pippa Moye, founder of Silver Ray Healing Therapies. “I’m a person who takes the initiative, makes changes and gets things done. I got the sense that my approach would have been regarded as bold and go-getting if I was a man. But instead I was seen as an interfering upstart, even though the results I achieved benefited the organisations I worked for and their customers.”
And she’s not alone. Amanda Shayle, CEO of Acuregen has had similar experiences. “My current issues are particularly in other countries such as Asia (Japan – in this example), where a grey-haired older man is perceived to be the senior executive and I have actually had to use a colleague in this capacity in order to be taken seriously!”
It is clear that in the 21st century, businesses needs leaders with female qualities such as empathy, compassion and humanity. Traditional leadership qualities of aggression and self-interest are counter-productive and do not lead to thriving, profitable and sustainable businesses. “Women are rising and I hope by 2030 that The UN Commission on the Status of Women’s declaration of equality is actualised,” adds Amanda Epe, founder of Ms Rose Blossom.
There was a generation of female business leaders who cut their teeth in the eighties and acted more like men than women, but that attitude and approach has long gone. Female leaders need to embrace their natural characteristics which make such good business sense.