In the last five years, it’s become increasingly common to see female names holding the top positions positions at some of the biggest companies in the world. A woman becoming the CEO of a large company garners tons of attention, but does more women in business really make for better business overall?
Back to 1914, when men were celebrating the first commercial flight ever made, women weren’t allowed to vote, have a credit card in their own names, legally terminate a pregnancy, purchase the pill, access emergency contraception, or attend Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Dartmouth or Columbia universities. Corporate careers were the land of men, and that was it. That reality remained rather constant for years, with women only recently entering the workforce in large numbers. Still, debate about wage disparity is ongoing, and there is no debate that large corporations’ top positions have rarely gone to women – a fact that is now beginning to change.
It’s been slow going, but with 4.6 percent of Fortune’s top CEO positions held by women, it looks like things are gradually on the upswing. Ginni Rometty at IBM, Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo), Marissa Mayer at Yahoo, and more recently Mary Barra, who became the first female CEO of a major automaker, are good examples of how much things have changed over 100 years.
Still there’s a lot to move around before we can say there is gender equality in the workplace in terms of executive positions. On the other hand, it doesn’t look like it will take long to reach a point where women are taking these positions in droves.
5. Women Might Be Better Team Players
When a woman joins a firm’s top management team, the team becomes more diverse, both in terms of social categorization and information. “Women tend to be more collaborative. They tend to work better in teams, and they tend to be better at communication”, notes Finkelstein.
Tony Schwartz, President of The Energy Project; Author of Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live believes an effective modern leader requires a blend of intellectual qualities — the ability to think analytically, strategically and creatively — and emotional ones, including self-awareness, empathy, and humility. “In short, great leadership begins with being a whole human being,” he blogged.
4. More Companies Are Making An Effort To Change
The National Association for Female Executives (NAFE), a division of Working Mother magazine publisher Working Mother Media, has just released its annual list of the top 50 companies for executive women. Forbes magazine claims The 50 companies on NAFE’s list are all places where women are progressing more quickly than in the rest of corporate America. The board leadership at these companies, which include IBM, Ernst & Young, Marriot, and Walmart, deem women’s advancement to be a priority.
3. Women Have More Influence On Men’s Behavior Than We Thought
Previous surveys and interviews with female leaders made by University of Maryland show female representation in top management positions as a factor of improvement in firm’s performance. Moreover, they show women exhibit an interactive leadership style that emphasizes inclusion. The mere presence of female family members — even infants — can be enough to nudge men in the generous direction.
In a provocative study published by The New York Times in 2013, Michael Dahl, Cristian Dezso and David Gaddis Ross, say women inspires candor in wealthy men. The article specifically points out the “warming effect” women have on men has implications for education and work.
2. Girls Currently Outperform Boys
The discrepancy between boys and girls performance is so great that many colleges and universities have improved their average tests scores simply by admitting more women. It’s no longer unusual for undergraduate classes to be 60 percent – or more – composed of women.
Today about one third of students at elite business schools are women. Finkelstein believes that percentage will increase sharply in the coming decades because the pool of qualified women is now much larger than ever before. “The march of the numbers is going to be powerful, and we’re going to see more and more women as senior executives and as CEOs”, Finkelstein suggests.
1. Womens’ Brains May Be Wired For Top Jobs
Women may have additional insight into important strategic questions, especially those that relate to female consumers, employees, and trading partners. More scientifically, Daniel Amen, founder of Amen Clinics and author of the book “Change Your Brain, Change Your Body”, recently completed the largest brain-imaging analysis ever conducted. The results confirm there is a big difference between the brains of men and the brains of women.
Amen says the inner CEO (the prefrontal cortex) of women is much more active than men. He explains this area of the brain features things like judgment, forethought, organization, planning, empathy, impulse control and learning from prior mistakes. “These are the very qualities needed to successfully manage a company, lead a nation, mediate crisis, and get people working together toward a common goal”, he told Huffington Post.
Women unfold increased activity in the hippocampus activity, the part of the brain that helps memories get into long-term storage. Because of that, women generally remember things well for longer than men — definitely a useful tool for leaders and CEOs. Due to this increased brain activity, women also tend to exhibit greater strengths in the areas of empathy, intuition, collaboration, and self-control.
The study involved single photon emissions computed tomography (SPECT) scans of 26,000 people, which then compared in a quest for differences between the sexes. Included in the group were healthy males and females as well as men and women with a wide variety of neurological and psychiatric conditions.