When discussing which countries handled the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic exceptionally well, we often hear reference to New Zealand, Taiwan, Finland, and Tokyo, to name a few. These places didn’t just by chance deal with the pandemic effectively – they were all tied with the common link of having female leaders.
Tough times aside, female leaders tend to outperform males – put a little (or a lot) of fire under their heels in the form of the first-wave-of-the-pandemic and the effectiveness gap nearly doubles, indicating that women appear to lead better in times of crisis.
According to Harvard Business Review’s Extraordinary Leader 360-degree assessment, women outperform men on just about every level of leadership including key competencies that are crucial in times of crisis: the ability to learn and move quickly, taking initiative, decisiveness, and the power to inspire others leading change. Not surprisingly, women leaders also scored higher on scores of integrity and honesty, communication, collaboration, empathy and all around relationship building – invaluable ingredients in the secret sauce for confidently leading an empowered, trusting team through tumultuous times. Furthermore, it appears as though the absence of testosterone is an asset with female leadership in stressful times inferred from studies linking the hormone to risky behaviour.
The data is impressive, so why aren’t there more women in leadership roles?
It appears to come down to how the genders differ in motivation. According to Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, CEO of 20-first, a global ‘balance’ consultancy, it’s because men fight for power and women fight for purpose – another reason why women have led better during the pandemic and likely other crises. There are of course other existing gender inequalities rampant in the workforce, however it is within a woman’s DNA (generally speaking) to not fight as hard for leadership unless there is purpose beyond power. The difference in the motivational source to climb the leadership ladder alone can account for the gender leadership gap – it is not about competency, in fact, quite the opposite.
As a women-led business recognized for this accomplishment in the Premieres en Affaires’ Women’s Business Awards and having a very female-forward company (63% female) with a female senior management team including President, General Manager, VP Client Services and VP of Strategy, our agency has witnessed the power of women firsthand. Furthermore, we believe that true, extraordinary leadership and performance is built from colourful diversity, in collaboration with team members of all genders, ethnicities, backgrounds and eccentricities.
Forbes psychologist Chamorro-Premuzic urges that “the most important thing we can challenge is that ‘women should emulate men’ …it would be more logical for us to ask men to emulate women” – and we could not agree more!