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Dearth of Women at Senior Levels

The disturbing fact is that the percentage of women in senior leadership roles in businesses has remained relatively steady.


Only 4.9% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 2% of S&P 500 CEOs are women. And those numbers are declining globally.


There are, of course, many factors that contribute to this dearth of women at senior levels. For centuries, there have been broad, cultural biases against women and stereotypes die slowly. People have long believed that many women elect not to aspire to the highest ranks of the organization and take themselves out of the running (though recent research disputes that). Lots of research has shown that unconscious bias places a significant role in hiring and promotion decisions, which also contributes to the lower number of women in key positions.


Current data presents even more compelling evidence that this bias is incorrect and unwarranted. Women are perceived by their managers — particularly their male managers — to be slightly more effective than men at every hierarchical level and in virtually every functional area of the organization. That includes the traditional male bastions of IT, operations, and legal.

As you can see in the chart below, women were rated as excelling in taking initiative, acting with resilience, practicing self-development, driving for results, and displaying high integrity and honesty. In fact, they were thought to be more effective in 84% of the competencies that we most frequently measure.


According to an analysis of thousands of 360-degree reviews, women outscored men on 17 of the 19 capabilities that differentiate excellent leaders from average or poor ones.



​Capability

Women’s percentile

Men’s percentile

Takes initiative

55.6

48.2

Resilience

54.7

49.3

Practises self-development

54.8

49.6

Drives for results

53.9

48.8

Displays high integrity and honesty

54.0

49.1

Develops others

54.1

49.8

Inspires and motivates others

53.9

49.7

Bold leadership

53.2

49.8

Builds relationships

53.2

49.9

Champions change

53.1

49.8

Establishes stretch goals

52.6

49.7

Collaboration and teamwork

52.6

50.2

Connects to the outside world

​51.6

50.3

Communicates powerfully and prolifically

51.8

50.7

Solves problems and analyzes issues

​51.5​

50.4

Leadership speed

51.5

50.5

Innovates

51.4

51

Technical or professional expertise

50.1

51.1

Develops strategic perspective

50.1

51.4


51.4

Note: The t-values of all data are statistically significant.

Source: Zenger Folkman 2019



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