In 2017, women make up around 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs.
And women who do make it to CEO level in any company earn, on average, 6-8% less than their male counterparts. Yet, a recent study has found that, based on several key personality criteria, women are better suited to leadership than men.
Professors Øyvind L. Martinsen and Lars Glasø at the BI Norweigan Business School had over 2,900 managers across Norway complete a personality survey. Certain personality traits are essential in working life but, according to Martinsen and Glasø, “for leaders, personality plays an even bigger role than for many other professions”.
Indra Nooyi is the Chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo. Photo Credit: Remy Steinegger // World Economic Forum
The researchers highlighted five personality traits that very effective leaders score highly for:
1. Ability to withstand job-related pressure and stress (leaders have a high degree of emotional stability).
2. Ability to take initiative, be clear and communicative (leaders are outgoing, with a high degree of extraversion).
3. Ability to innovate, be curious and have an ambitious vision (effective leaders have a high degree of openness to new experiences).
4. Ability to support, accommodate and include employees (effective leaders display a high degree of sociability).
5. Ability to set goals, be thorough and follow up (effective leaders are generally very methodical).
The results of their survey showed that women scored higher than their male counterparts in four of the five personality traits measured. According to Martinsen and Glasø, "The results indicate that, as regards personality, women are better suited for leadership than their male colleagues when it comes to clarity, innovation, support and targeted meticulousness". So, women in leadership really excel at points 2, 3, 4 and 5 in the list of traits above.
The only area in which women did not score quite so highly was "ability to withstand job-related pressure and stress". Apparently, female leaders have a stronger tendency to worry.
However, Professor Glasø said this does not negate the fact that "[women] are decidedly more suited to management positions than their male counterparts".
He added, "If decision-makers ignore this truth, they could effectively be employing less qualified leaders and impairing productivity."