Earlier this week, HBR released a report which detailed work on the effect of female leadership at the upper echelons of organizations (read it here). In short: Organizations with greater female representation in the C-Suite and on their Boards had better profits.
These types of findings have been found before, and it’s great that a source like Harvard is now also championing it.
The authors of the report were unable to answer the question why having more women produced these results. They surmise that it could be the product of diversity (which definitely is linked to better firm performance), or a role-modeling/cultural openness effect. You can read more about those in the article.
For me, being a leadership expert, my thoughts immediately went to research that shows that women are better leaders. A researcher named Alice Eagly has completed a number of meta-analyses on the topic of leadership. A meta-analysis takes dozens of other research findings and summarizes and puts them through further statistical rigor, so results are in many ways more reliable than a single research study. In one such meta-analysis, Eagly looked at the gender differences in leadership styles (paper here). She found that women were more likely to be transformational leaders, and use another style called continent reward (this involves setting goals paired with clear rewards for achieving them and penalties for not). Both of these styles are positively associated with individual, team, and organizational performance. Men were more likely to engage in negative behaviors akin to micromanaging, looking for and penalizing errors, or just not caring about employees. Needless to say, these behaviors are negatively associated with performance (and a slew of other employee well-being factors).
So having women break through the glass ceiling is good for firm performance, and having women at all levels of your organization is good for everybody.
One final note: the positive leadership behaviors can be developed through training – more about that in a future post 😉