Men vs. Women in Leadership: Why The World Needs More Female Leaders?
According to the World Bank, vetting for the right gender in leadership positions could potentially double our global GDP by a whopping $12 trillion. Myriads of global policy frameworks have existed since such revelations for claiming the rightful territory for this gender in leadership. However, the world is far from shattering the glass ceiling regarding gender equality, and men continue to lead based on their charisma, confidence, and sheer narcissism.
It's true: women outperform men, and statistics show that they score meaningfully higher in leadership effectiveness and competencies that we are seen to measure so often. They act resilient, perform with high integrity and honesty, demonstrate emotional intelligence, take the initiative, perform better in crisis, and practice self-development. They even face the gender double bind, adapting to gendered expectations as they take on the roles and responsibilities of a true leader.
So why are women being held back from leadership roles? The truth is that stereotypes die a prolonged death. Women have been seen to be a target of cultural bias for centuries, perceived to come with extra baggage such as children and household responsibilities. These stereotypes remain subconsciously active in the human mind, impacting hiring and promotion decisions. Marital arrangements further reinforce the male breadwinner bias in many cultures and societies. As a result, women either don't try, don't get a chance, or fail to climb up the ladder of leadership success.
The world is, however, evolving and has embarked on the road to gender equality. Regardless of how slow the pace is, progress is progress. The most significant accomplishment in achieving gender equality for women in leadership was a leap from 7 female CEOs in 2002 to 74 female CEOs in Fortune 500 Companies. Even though these statistics represent a mere 15% of the total, it is still an improvement as this number has risen for the fourth year. This further implies (backed by data) that even male managers are beginning to recognize females as marginally more effective at different hierarchical levels and in various functional areas of any organization.
While gender bias and negative stereotyping are a norm, what seems to be more intriguing is that society, in general, is not the only one that assesses women critically. Women themselves, it has been noted, tend to be rigid towards themselves when it comes to their assessment. A study by Forbes reveals that men are more likely to self-promote themselves than women even when both performed at par. Essentially, these differences spark a general discussion around women lacking confidence at work. While men seem more assertive and confident regarding their work duties, women may tend to exemplify confidence using a quieter and more calculated demeanor. This difference in demonstrating confidence is often mistaken for a shortage of the same.
However, studies such as by Zenger Folkman and Forbes simultaneously reveal a substantial difference in confidence ratings for both genders, especially in the mid-20s. While the men may perceive themselves as more competent owing to their overconfidence, women ought to be less confident despite being talented. Another exciting find on confidence levels between genders reveals that these confidence gaps tend to merge at a certain age, around the mid-40s. After this age, women's confidence levels seemingly rise while men's seem to go down.
The apparent confidence gaps that women and men experience, in turn, lead to another problem: women do not apply to as many jobs, leadership positions, and high-profile assignments as they should. Having different conclusions regarding job preparedness leads women to stay back while overconfident, assertive, and often narcissistic men get prominent, fat leadership positions.
One study reveals that women prefer to stay back when rejected for similar positions. Gender differences and stereotypes make women believe they might not be selected for a specific leadership position even when shortlisted. An experience by one such woman reveals that she was rejected for a leadership role after many rounds of interviews, leading her to believe that she was only shortlisted because the company wanted to shortlist female employees too. Even when these grudges might be baseless, women have a right to perceive so because they are an underrepresented minority.
As a woman, if you believe you are more than you credit yourself for, chances are these feelings might turn in your favor in the long run (don't ever feel under-confident). Low confidence levels at younger ages motivate women to take more initiative, honor feedback and become more resilient to take on future challenges. As a result, women perform better in the long run and even tend to view and appraise themselves more positively once they cross the 50s barrier. Surprisingly, at some point, women tend to consider themselves better in their positions as leaders than men.
The above findings have one thing in common: all of them believe that women must claim the rightful positions they have left vacant for so long. It's proven that they do have the ability to become highly competent leaders, and it's time for them to realize and act accordingly. Provided they are given equal opportunities, they can become just as effective, if not more, leaders as men.
Our findings aren't just a lesson for women. They tend to be a soft reminder for leaders to revise their hiring and promotion decisions and consider women for the same roles. Succumbing to bias may be involuntary, but failing to address processes that lead to the same is not. It is therefore compulsory that gender biases are avoided by giving competent women a chance to participate and lead significant roles. Finally, organizations must come forward to address gender equality and reap forth the benefits and returns that they have been missing out on for so long.