The Secret Sauce Behind Corporate Success? Women in Charge

Katie Simon
Posted

woman-executive-confidenceHiring managers, take note: The more female supervisors you have, the better your company is likely to perform.

At least, those are among the findings of recently released research from DDI and The Conference Board. According to the survey, firms that were in the top 20% for financial performance reported that 37% of their leaders were women. Meanwhile, companies in the bottom 20% reported that 19% of their leadership positions (including those in the C-suite and at lower levels) were held by women.

On its surface, these results aren’t too surprising: Earlier research published in the Harvard Business Review shows that female leaders were rated more highly than their male peers in 12 out of 16 competencies—skills like taking initiative and championing change—that are considered traits of strong leaders. And the higher the leadership position, the wider the ratings gap. 

So why aren’t more women in leadership positions? The answer could lie in self-confidence, reports Forbes: 12% of men describe themselves as among the top 5% of performers in their companies, compared with 9% of women.

Another interesting statistic: 35% of male leaders took on an international assignment, but only 28% of women did the same. International work assignments can boost workers’ confidence in their leadership skills because it creates more challenging circumstances and opportunities. Richard Wellins, one of the co-authors of the DDI/Conference Board study, tells Forbes that he believes the discrepancy may exist because many women don’t want to leave their families for an extended period or take on a job in a more sexist culture, causing them to miss out.

Compared with the rest of the world, the U.S. actually ranks highly when it comes to women in corporate leadership. Canada holds the number-one position; 50% of their business leaders are women. The U.S., at 41%, is tied for second with the Philippines. Coming in last is Japan, at a paltry 8%.

Those numbers, however, go lower the further up the management ladder you go. Only 14.6% of executives at Fortune 500 companies are female—and only 4.6% of those companies’ C.E.O.s are women, according to a study by the Center for American Progress.

Some experts say that the workplace needs to change in order for more women to take executive positions. Many leave the workforce because they feel unappreciated, experience work burnout early on in their careers or find it hard to juggle work and home responsibilities. What changes do you think are needed to keep women at the top?