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Why Women Naturally Make Better Leaders Than Men

The facts:

“Firms with more women on their boards “outperform their rivals with a 42% higher return on sales, 66% higher return on invested capital and 53% higher return on equity.”

“Teams which involve women are more intelligent than teams made up of men alone”


The research:

Professors Woolley and Malone, along with Christopher Chabris, Sandy Pentland, and Nada Hashmi, gave subjects aged 18 to 60 standard intelligence tests and assigned them randomly to teams. Each team was asked to complete several tasks—including brainstorming, decision making, and visual puzzles—and to solve one complex problem. Teams were given intelligence scores based on their performance. 

Though the teams that had members with higher IQs didn’t earn much higher scores, those that had more women in them, did.

In Australia (bureau of statistics 2016):

The full-time average weekly ordinary earnings for women are 16.2% less than for men. 

The gender pay gap in ASX 200 organisations is currently 28.7%. 

In ASX 200 organisations, Women:

  • Hold only 14.2% of chair positions
  • Hold only 23.6% of directorships
  • Represent 15.4% of CEOs
  • Represent 27.4% of key management personnel
  • Are not at all represented on 10.0% of ASX 200 company boards

The point (and key points):

1. As Communication is critical to effective people leadership, great leaders spend the bulk of their time communicating their thoughts, feelings (emotional intelligence), ideas, purpose and vision for the future. 

When it comes to communicating, women lead men, because they are genetically wired to do so. Whilst male embryos are laying down androgen receptors (for testosterone receptivity and physical strength), female embryos are laying in communication pathways. 

There are various studies by scientists and universities around that Globe that confirm that women’s brains, biology and chemistry are indeed (on average, when compared to men) wired for relating, communicating, nurturing and caring. The simple finding of these studies is that Women’s brains are more functionally interconnected. 

To add weight to this, in my professional experience, having coached and trained thousands of people, women are more effectively and clearly able to verbalise what they think and feel, than most of their male counterparts while being coached. 

2. Employees led by people with highly developed Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Compassion have higher levels of job engagement and therefore job performance. The output of emotional intelligence in leadership is the ability to understand and lead emotional and physical states in their self and others. For example, sufficient emotional intelligence is required to be able to identify and effectively communicate with employees around the signs of stress and overwork, including personal and professional challenges. According to The Six-Seconds Organisation in the US, a leader in the field of EQ, Women (naturally and nurturally) excel in all of the key pillars of emotional intelligence, when compared to men.

 3. Maturity. Again, there are various scientific studies behind the common notion that men take longer to mature than women do. The female brain establishes connections and “prunes” itself faster than the male brain. 

It seems that this physiological maturation process commences a few years after birth and continues to occur until around 40 years old. 

Women mature faster than men in most cases. 



The Paradox:

The fact that women seem more capable of empathy and emotional intelligence is both their key Leadership strength and paradoxically their developmental anchor point or ceiling. Put simply, they care too much. 

This is clearly explained by Jane Loevinger, in her theory of ego development, and the 9 levels of Development- 4 of which we can relate directly to leading and caring. 

There are 4 identifiable stages that demonstrate care for adults, and each stage transcends and includes the previous stage.

They are:

Ego Centric (pre-conventional) – care about self (apart)

Ethno-centric (conventional) – care about my group

World Centric (post-conventional) – care about all of us

Universal-Centric (post-post conventional) – care about the whole (everyone and everything). 

While women usually mature faster than men, have greater access to the key aspects of emotional intelligence, and are built for relating, connecting and nurturing, they can often become overly-identified with these aspects. 

Men mature faster than women in three key aspects; Stress tolerance, independence and physical strength. 

The paradox here is that women care too “much” and too soon, in the way they relate to their relationships with people, situations, as well as how they perceive they are seen and perceived by others. 

My current perspective from coaching and leading people, a somewhat controversial one, is a woman’s in-built capacity for care and relating, one of her core strengths, is what typically undermines and holds her back in being able to take the lead; Free yourself from this in voice, and in action, and have the confidence to care about everyone wholly, and let go of the ‘personal’ and partial’ care/s.

Jay Hedley

Managing Partner

The Coaching Room

Click here to learn about The Coaching Room’s Women In Leadership Sponsored Breakfast Series. It is a monthly Leadership Transition and Actualisation workshop for women in the workplace, empowering leaders of the future.

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