Women are wired for leadership. Studies show females are naturally more participative, relational and empowering than their male counterparts. With these qualities being more in demand in today’s complex workforce, it’s not surprising that women who earn leadership positions do well.
In a recent Zenger Folkman 360-degree study of 16,000 leaders, women were perceived to be more effective than their male counterparts in 12 of 16 leadership competencies and nearly every field, including male-leaning areas such as operations, information technology and sales. According to the study, the perceived effectiveness gap also existed at all levels of leadership. In fact, the higher women climb through the ranks, the wider the spread.
With females comprising 47 percent of the total workforce, one may expect that the numbers of men and women in leadership roles would also be equal. However, only 3 to 4 percent of CEOs, 14 percent of senior executives, 26 percent of vice presidents and 30 percent of managers are women.
Why this gap exists is debatable. Some argue poor selection and promotion practices, while others point at the lack of opportunities beginning in childhood. While these areas should be explored and addressed, another obstacle was highlighted in a 2012 McKinsey study. The findings revealed that the desire for advancement was less in women than men, both for single-step advancement (69 percent women, 74 percent men) and for C-level leadership roles (18 percent women, 36 percent men).
Some believe that women’s self-elimination has been caused by a lack of self-efficacy one’s belief that he or she can influence events in a situation or task like leadership. However, by addressing its four sources — mastery experience, modelling, feedback from others and psychological response — self-efficacy can be increased. Practically speaking, women can increase their self-efficacy by participating in leadership training and coaching, establishing mentoring relationships with effective women leaders and increasing their emotional intelligence.
One of the easiest first steps is registering for a course, such as the MBA’s Women in Leadership. This daylong course provides attendees leadership education and skills while discussing how to get the most out of a mentoring relationship and effective networking techniques. To learn more or to register, visit www.mbausa.org!
Meghan Waskiewicz has taught traditional and adult students for the last decade at the Manufacturer and Business Association and formally at Mercyhurst University where she served as assistant professor and chair of the Communication Department. She is currently a partner at The Waskey Group.