On Inauguration Day, two of the three highest offices in America will be held by women. Kamala Harris will be vice president, and Nancy Pelosi will continue to be speaker of the House of Representatives.
At the same time, research is coming out about how women often excel at leadership, especially in times of crisis.
Jack Zenger is one of the authors of research published in the Harvard Business Review. He’s a former academic, and is now the CEO of Zenger/Folkman, a leadership development consultancy. He told Texas Standard that his curiosity about women’s aptitude for leadership was piqued by conversations during which male business experts said they believed it to be true, even though they didn’t have the data to back it up.
Years later, Zenger got access to data from comprehensive evaluations of business leaders by their colleagues. Analysis of those reviews showed that women were better leaders.
“Of the 13 of the 19 leadership competencies that we measure, women had higher scores,” Zenger said.
Zenger says the data showed women excel in areas like driving for results, taking initiative and being effective at working with people.
“Yes, they were better at collaboration; yes they were better at teamwork, but they were also very good at what many would look at and say, ‘These are the harder, tougher skills,'” Zenger said.
So if they possess superior skills, why aren’t more women in positions of leadership? Zenger says the answer is “very complex.” Bias against women, tradition and some women making a choice to pause their careers to focus on family obligations could play a role, he says.
“The fact of the matter is roughly 3%-4% of CEOs in all corporations in North America [are women],” he said.
Zenger hopes his research can encourage decision-makers to consider more women to fill leadership roles.