Study: Women In Leadership (Pfaff , 2009)
Finding: Women are outscoring men on management assessments in more than just the “soft” skills.
InPower Insight: Women and men both can master a broad range of leadership skills. Don’t sell yourself – or your employees – short.
Good news for all those women who are tired of research touting women’s “soft” skills as though that’s all we bring to the table, there’s also research that shows that women’s skill sets across the spectrum of leadership styles are comparable with mens. This study conducted by Pfaff and Associates over a five year period included 2,482 managers from all levels (1,727 males, 755 females) from 459 different organizations spanning 19 states. The study found that female managers continuously fared better than their male counterparts when rated by their bosses and employees.
Dr. Larry Pfaff, who oversaw and conducted the research, found that women were rated higher by their employees on 17 out of 20 assessed skill sets, 15 being significantly higher than their male counterparts while the remaining three assessed areas were a tie. Similarly, women managers were rated higher by their bosses on 16 out of 20 skill sets (with all 16 areas being notably higher) than their counterpart male managers. The only area in which men consistently rated higher was in Directive.
In the process of this study Pfaff challenged the notion that women only excel at “soft” skills such as communication, empathy, empowerment and positive thinking. Using the Management Leader Practices Inventory (MLPI), Pfaff found that women contain more robust decision-making, planning and standard-setting skills and can contribute far greater to business goals and accomplishments skillfully than with empathy.
Career Coaching Tip: Don’t hesitate to bring more than just your “soft” skills to the business table. Men aren’t the only ones who excel at decisiveness, planning and setting standards. This research – and other studies that corroborate it – show that women can cultivate and master a broad range of skills. Additional research shows that when women do this, they are more successful than men at climbing the career ladder. When you get into a situation that requires that you use skills you’re not comfortable with, embrace the opportunity and discomfort. Stretch yourself!
Keywords: Leadership Style, Management-Leadership Inventory Practices, Managers