Study: Where Women Beat Men in Leadership

In a survey of more than 3,100 male and female managers, women were found to outperform men in several leadership and collaborative skill areas, including problem solving, empathy, and transparency.

Women are key to economic success in the U.S., according to new research by the Apollo Research Institute illustrating how women are creating stronger, more competitive organizations and redefining careers paths for aspiring female leaders.

In a survey of more than 200 female executives and more than 3,100 male and female managers, researchers found women outperformed men in several leadership skills, including communication, coaching, problem solving, and creative thinking. Women also scored higher than men in empathy, transparency, and inclusiveness.

Women leaders often stand out for their relationship-building skills. But our findings highlight how women also excel as negotiators, risk-takers, and entrepreneurs.

“Women leaders often stand out for their relationship-building skills,” said Dr. Tracey Wilen-Daugenti, vice president and managing director of Apollo Research Institute, the nonprofit division of the Apollo Group, Inc., which owns the University of Phoenix and other for-profit educational institutions. “But our findings highlight how women also excel as negotiators, risk-takers, and entrepreneurs.”

Yet women’s representation in leadership roles is lagging. Less than one in 10 businesses around the world have a female CEO, and women hold one in five senior management positions, according to Grant Thornton’s 2012 International Business Report.

Among associations, women made up 42 percent of CEOs in 2012—an increase from 40 percent in 2010—according to the 2012-2013 ASAE Compensation and Benefits Study.

“Very few women, I suspect, grew up with the ambition to be the head of a trade association,” Pamela Bailey, then president and CEO of the Cosmetic, Fragrance, and Toiletry Association, told Associations Now in 2006. She predicted that that would change because of the “terrific” job opportunities associations provide.

Nonprofits are, in fact, one of the six fastest-growing sectors “that offer women on-ramps to career advancement,” the Apollo Research Institute survey found. Other sectors include business services, education, healthcare, information technology, and manufacturing.

The research, published in the report Women Lead: Career Perspectives from Workplace Leaders, also found that a majority of female leaders are taking untraditional paths to the top. Eighty-seven percent of women executives and managers reported shifting career paths in midlife, and 58 percent of female leaders described their career paths as nonlinear.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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