Should a Woman Act More Like a Man to Succeed at Work?

research explores leadership differences between men and women and makes the
case for gender diversity in the workplace.
Pittsburgh — Women comprise more than half the
workforce. Yet, less than 20 percent of C-suite executives are women and only
five percent of CEOs are women. To help answer why there are not more women
in the top ranks of leadership, scientists at Development Dimensions International (DDI),
the global leadership development consultancy, released two research studies
aimed at finding the answers. The first, Ready-Now
Leaders: Cultivating Women in Leadership to Meet Tomorrow’s Business
by DDI and The Conference Board, identifies “confidence”
as one of the few but significant leadership differences between the sexes.
The research also provides a snapshot view and analysis of gender diversity
across countries and industries. DDI’s High-Resolution Leadership
study reviewed true assessment data from 10,000 global leaders and found no
difference in the battle of the sexes for leadership skills.  Men and
women equally qualified in business drivers around hard- and
soft-business skills—with neither gender scoring high.  However, the
study did identify three personality differences—inquisitiveness, sensitivity
and impulsiveness—between the two sexes.

To get ahead,
should a woman act more like a man at work? “The quick answer is no—except
when it comes to confidence,” said Tacy M. Byham, Ph.D., DDI CEO. “Women need
to do a better job of declaring themselves and becoming their own
advocates—speaking and acting confidently and mentally promoting themselves
to a future-focused role.  With this mindset, our own behaviors change.
And, a woman’s impact is strengthened and improves her ability to get that
seat at the table.” Combined findings from the research include:
Fact 1: Women are less confident and less
likely to rate themselves as highly effective leaders compared to men. Men
highly self-rate their own leadership skills and their ability to tackle
management and business challenges. 
Only 30 percent of women rate
themselves in the top 10 percent of leaders, in comparison to 37 percent of
men. At the senior level, 63 percent of men rate themselves as
highly-effective leaders compared to only 49 percent of women. Women were
less likely to have completed international assignments, to have led across
countries or geographically dispersed teams, all of which make up important
development opportunities. Leaders who had access to global and more visible
experiences are more likely to advance.

Fact 2:
Business drivers comparing men and women yield no significant differences
. Business drivers examined include:
Building high-performance cultures; engaging employees; cultivating a
customer-focused culture; creating alignment and accountability; enhancing
organizational talent; building strategic partnerships and relationships,
driving process innovation and driving efficiency. “The reality is we tend to
focus too much on differences which are actually few and far between,” said
Richard S. Wellins, Ph.D., DDI Senior Vice President and study co-author.
“The disparity in gender diversity has little to do with competence levels.”

Fact 3:
Considerable personality gaps exist between the sexes in inquisitiveness,
sensitivity and impulsiveness
The research shows that men are 16 percent more inquisitive than women,
possibly due to their tendency to gravitate towards STEM (Science,
Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers that reinforce inquiry.
Women are interpersonally more sensitive than men (13 percent more), which
can be an advantage in cultures where leaders are valued for demeanor and
interactions with others. Men also score as more impulsive than women (11
percent more) which could result from the reinforced “just do it” attitude
where women are nurtured with the outlook “don’t do it unless you can do it

Fact 4:
Organizations with a greater percentage of women in leadership roles perform
better financially. Organizations in the top 20 percent of financial
performers have 37 percent of their leaders as women.
“When it comes to leadership, gender
shouldn’t be an issue, but it is—a business issue,” said Byham. “Encouraging
gender diversity in leadership ranks leads to more diversity of thought
prompting improved problem solving and increased business benefits.”
Organizations with women in at least 30 percent of leadership roles are 12
times more likely to be in the top 20 percent of financial performers.
Organizations in the bottom 20 percent have only 19 percent of their leaders
as women. “DDI research shows that when women occupy top leadership spots it
pays dividends to the bottom-line in the form of increased revenue and
profits,” said Byham.

Fact 5:
The United States ranks fourth globally in percentage of women leaders.
Across the globe, women comprise a lower proportion of leadership roles than
their workforce presence, falling short of men by 20 percent
. DDI’s Ready-Now Leaders: Cultivating
Women in Leadership to Meet Tomorrow’s Business Challenges survey asked 1,528
global HR executives to provide the percentage of their organizations’
leaders that were women. The Philippines placed first with 51 percent of its
leaders as women, followed by Thailand at 39 percent. Canada took third place
at 37 percent with the U.S. lagging behind in fourth place with 36 percent of
its leaders as women. Increasing gender diversity has become an economic
priority in countries such as Japan that placed last with 10 percent of its
leaders as women. With an increase in Japan’s female employment rate, the
country’s workforce would expand by more than eight million people—and its
GDP would grow by as much as 13 percent.* Cultural and socioeconomic factors
impact the role of women in the workplace. Australia and German are
addressing these shortages with legal quotas—further evidence that the need
for gender diversity has far greater implications beyond business practices.
Whether or not government intervention impacts these numbers, the data
indicates that businesses with a sufficient supply of women leaders will
continue to be more competitive.

Fact 6:
The lowest number of women in leadership roles are in the consumer products,
transportation services, computer software, technology, chemicals, energy and
utilities, construction, industrial manufacturing and automotive and
transport industries (15 to 30 percent of leaders are women).
Industries with the highest have more
female-dominated workforces and include health care, education and retail
industries (43 to 47 percent of leaders are women).Industries with a moderate
representation of women leaders include: food, banking and telecommunications
services. The number of women employed and leading in an industry influences
the opportunities for women to advance and develop and has implications for
the future. Industries with shortages of women in leadership suffer due to
fewer role models and mentors to provide encouragement and guidance to
encourage younger generations into leadership roles.

Want more
women in leadership roles? Implement these seven practices which have been
shown to make a difference driving diversity.
“But remember, to be successful,
happy, and fulfilled at work and in life, it’s less about acting more like a
man or more like a woman,” said Byham. “It is about becoming a best-ever
version of yourself.”

  1. Make sure your leaders have
    high-quality development plans.
  2. Implement a formal process for
    identifying global/multinational leaders.
  3. Give managers who fail to develop
    their leaders a negative consequence.
  4. Ensure that an up-to-date status
    of leadership talent capability across the organization is available.
  5. Use validation tests and
    simulations for making leadership promotion and selection decisions to
    prevent bias.
  6. Incorporate formal programs to
    ensure smooth leadership transitions at all levels. (Female
    representation tends to be greater at lower levels.)
  7. Provide time for leaders to
    practice key skills with their managers and receive feedback.
Sachs. (2014) Womenomics 4.0: Time to Walk the Talk.
About the

Leadership Forecast 2014 l 2015,
Leaders: Cultivating Women in Leadership to Meet Tomorrow’s Business
, produced by DDI and The Conference Board includes
survey responses from 13,124 leaders; 1,528 global human resource executives;
and 2031 participating organizations. The record-breaking size of the
participant pool gave us sufficient sample sizes so that we could look at our
findings from many points of view and dissect findings based on diverse
perspectives spanning leaders and HR professionals, four leader levels,
gender, 48 countries across all regions, 32 major industry categories and
multinationals versus local corporations.

report provides both a telescopic and microscopic lens
on what drives great leadership performance, and, ultimately, business
performance. The data is based on real behaviors observed in DDI’s assessment
centers during “day in a life” leadership simulations and the research
represents more than a decade of details from more than 15,000 candidates
being considered for leadership roles ranging from frontline to the C-suite,
representing over 300 organizations across 20 industries in 18
countries. The 18 findings in the High-Resolution Leadership
report draw a very clear picture of what makes a great leader, what
leadership skills predict better business metrics, and which personal
attributes and skill patterns influence leader success as they move

Development Dimensions International (DDI)
DDI is a
global human resources consultancy specializing in leadership assessment and
development.  We help companies transform the way they hire, promote and
develop their leaders at every organizational level. Clients include half of
the Fortune 500 and multinationals doing business across a vast array of
industries from Berlin to Bangalore. We serve clients from 42 offices.
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