If Women Are Better Leaders, Why Are They Still Underrepresented?

by Dora Wang on Aug 3, 2015 11:00:00 AM

If Women Are Better Leaders, Why Are They Still Underrepresented? by TINYpulseTimes have changed since the 1950s, when, according to Gallup, only 5% of the workforce said they’d prefer a female manager to a male manager — but not by a lot. Today, 20% say they’d prefer a female manager, though 46% said it wouldn’t matter either way. Still, women are largely underrepresented in leadership positions within companies. Not only is that an issue when it comes to social rights, but it actually may be a detriment to a company’s success.

According to Forbes and Gallup:

  • Women outscored men in all 16 leadership competencies laid out by the survey, and in 12 out of the 16, women outscored men by a significant margin. Those competencies included “taking initiative” and “driving for results”

  • 41% of female managers are engaged at work, compared to 35% of male managers — regardless if they have children

  • Employees who work for a female manager report being more engaged than those with a male manager

  • Only one in three working Americans report having a female boss

  • 78% of high-level, senior management positions are held by men

These statistics show that female managers were more highly rated than male managers by peers, bosses, and direct reports — essentially at every level. The difference in engagement statistics — both of the manager and of the manager’s employees — should strike a nerve in all companies. And yet, women aren’t holding leadership positions.

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Forbes attributes this fact to the idea that women are less likely to self-promote, and senior-level male leaders are more likely to hire other men. Clearly something needs to be done, not just to put more women in leadership positions they deserve, but to help all underrepresented groups have access to managerial roles, no matter how much they self-promote.

There are three things companies can do to help overlooked candidates for leadership positions.

  1. Build employee recognition into your culture: In this case, employee recognition should specifically be geared toward peer-to-peer recognition or values-based recognition. This way, talent acts as the equalizer, and the awards can help point managers to valuable candidates for leadership roles. Peer-to-peer reward programs can also help remove unintended gender or other biases. Values-based programs make reward systematic and even scientific, to achieve the same result.

  2. Create employee resource groups: Allow your employees to find support within their own specific communities through employee resource groups, or ERGs, for women, specific ethnic groups, people with disabilities, LGBTQ-identified workers, and other employees who are underrepresented in leadership positions. By building bonds within the company, they can foster a spirit of support and help bring attention to worthy candidates for leadership roles.

  3. Connect people through mentorship programs: Open up leadership mentor groups that sponsor, teach, and encourage employees of all backgrounds and genders to rise to management positions. Have coaching groups meet during lunchtime, or build leadership mentorship relationships, one on one, into the company culture. Employees can self-identify, get chosen by managers, or be nominated by peers to join.

Despite women possibly having better leadership qualities than men, they are still underrepresented in management positions. There are ways to change that, however, and companies should make that a priority.



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This post was written by Dora Wang

Dora is an employee engagement researcher for TINYpulse and managing editor of TINYinstitute. Having grown up in Texas, she is now firmly settled in Seattle, where she spends her free time reading comic books, wrangling her three cats, and (of course) rooting for the Seahawks.

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