There are of course many factors that contribute to this shortage of women in the upper levels. For centuries there have been broad cultural prejudices against women and stereotypes are slowly dying out. People have long believed that many women choose not to aspire to the top echelons of the organization and to retire from the race. Much research has shown that unconscious bias plays an important role in hiring and promotion decisions, which also contributes to the decrease in the number of women in key positions. Our current data present even more convincing evidence that this bias is incorrect and unwarranted.
Women are perceived by their managers – especially their male managers – to be slightly more effective than men at all hierarchical levels and in virtually all functional areas of the organization. This includes the traditional male strongholds of IT, operations and legal.
Forbes recently reported: “As of 2011, it is estimated that there are over 8.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States. Overall, women-owned businesses have done better than their male counterparts over the past 14 years. The number of male-owned businesses (which account for 51% of all U.S. businesses) grew only 25% between 1997 and 2011, half the rate of female-owned businesses. “According to them, the top female communication strengths are: the ability to read body language and nonverbal cues, good listening skills, and effective displays of empathy. From an early age, many women are taught to verbalize their thoughts and feelings, and in our society, most would argue that it’s more socially acceptable for women to articulate their emotions than men.
More Problem solving rather than men
According to the Caliper study, “Women leaders are more assertive and persuasive, have a greater need to get things done, and are more willing to take risks than men.” Our collegial approach to leadership facilitates collaboration and open information sharing. We choose to discuss possible solutions with more people and, in turn, gain more facts and perspectives. Combine this with our keen sense of non-verbal communication, and we become better positioned to make informed decisions to solve problems.
A woman’s ability to harness this potential can help us navigate complex situations and manage the behaviors and expectations of our colleagues. It also helps us identify and connect with others from a place of empathy and understanding. Psychology Today defines the role of empathy in business, “… empathy promotes relationships and chemistry. People who are good at emotional empathy make good counselors, teachers, and group leaders because of their ability to sense how others are reacting at the same time.