Rosie the RiveterEarlier this year, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman released figures from a 2011 survey they conducted of 7,280 leaders from both public and private organizations. They write:

“At every level, more women were rated by their peers, their bosses, their direct reports, and their other associates as better overall leaders than their male counterparts — and the higher the level, the wider that gap grows.”

Overall Leadership Effectiveness by Gender by Position

Another interesting set of results from the same survey shows that women also outshine their male counterparts in core competencies.

“Women managers and executives were perceived as being more effective than their male counterparts on ¾ of the competencies that we measure. Now, the differences weren’t gargantuan, but they were statistically significant. Of the 16 competencies in our standard leadership competency model, women scored significantly higher on 12 of them. On only one did men receive statistically significantly higher scores. That one exception was ‘strategic thinking.’”

The Top 16 Competencies Top Leaders Exemplify Most

Zenger and Folkman caution against taking this information as proof that one gender is more competent than another. What they do recommend is for companies to recognize the vast and under-utilized talent pool hiding in plain sight – their women workers.

Zenger and Folkman write:

“The good news about this research isn’t that women are better than men. It’s that both men and women can develop their leadership skills and abilities, and no area need be reserved for one or the other. We all believe the best qualified person should get the job and that gender, race, or relationships should not be a factor.”

Yet, if it were always the case that the “best qualified person” won the job, given these statistics, why are women still so grossly underrepresented in senior leadership positions?


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