Women make better leaders? Careful….


by Karolyn Hart

More and more I’m reading studies and research that are making the bold statements that “women make better leaders than men”.  As a woman who is also a leader most would assume I would deliver an enthusiastic response and get on the band wagon.  After all, a study recently published by the International Journal of Business Governance and Ethics, surveyed 600 Board of Directors, and concluded that women make better corporate leaders than men. Who can argue with such a prestigious firm interviewing successful people? Facts are facts right? Research is never wrong, correct? Except, there are now studies being conducted on studies that at the time were touted as accurate and in fact were wrong.

According to this recent study, women are more inquisitive than men and more cooperative when it comes to consider competing interests.  Is it just me, or is anyone else offended on behalf of men? To me, these are sweeping statements that shows we’ve learned absolutely nothing about diversity and how it interplays between the sexes.  I can quickly call to mind a number of leaders who are male, as well as female leaders, who are all equally inquisitive.  I can also call to mind both men and women who are equally adept at managing conflict resolution with competing interests and just as many who are not.

In the last 50 years we women fought to be seen as equals and while I admit that I believe we are still behind the eight ball when it comes to the glass ceiling – I am disheartened at the latest movement that is about diminishing the contribution of men.  I would think, that we women, would understand best that it is not about superiority but about equality. True equality.

Now I do believe that if there is an all male board and a female is brought to the table, that it provides a competitive advantage.  Not because the woman sitting at the table is somehow superior, but that men and women when equally represented and united to work together are far more competitive than when they are unbalanced.  Alternatively, I also believe that an all female board would not perform nearly as effectively as they would if they were to invite a male perspective to the table.

I would love these studies to consider the option of united working approaches and how they interplay. Does having equality at the table create a competitive advantage? These over-simplified statements that “girls are better than boys” seem unsophisticated and raise more questions than answers for me.

Imagine if these studies went beyond the battles of the sexes – what would happen if we also chose to learn about how extending equality into our boards (including race, age and sex) impacts competitiveness. Imagine if progressive Boards actually discovered that creating a “youth” board position created a competitive advantage because it provided a mechanism for the company to stay in touch with the thoughts of a generation they have nothing in common with? Would that be a competitive advantage I wonder?

It is true that we women leaders are still behind in many areas, but as we move forward let’s ensure that in our quest for equality that we do not inadvertently end up doing to men that which was once done to us.  Equality is not about superiority.  It is about respecting the differences and understanding that we are better together.

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