We may be at the beginning of a new corporate era. In 2017, the Fortune 500 saw a 50% increase in the number of female CEOs — that’s huge news! Of course, there’s still a long way to before equal representation (an absolute gender equality in our offices), but science last studies show this trend may continue, despite some recent claims to the contrary.
There has been much public debate about women’s underrepresentation in the workplace, with the infamous Google manifesto making waves most recently. James Lamore claimed that among other reasons, women are underrepresented in competitive industries for biological reasons, such as differences in brain structure.
Predictably, but not surprisingly, this sexist pseudoscience is dead wrong. New research shows that women’s brains may actually provide critical advantages in the most competitive fields, especially management. If this is true, we may see executive women overtake men on Fortune 500 lists in the coming years.
Wired for Management
In one recent study, neurologists scanned the brains of 1000 volunteers. The MRI results showed that men’s brains have more connections running from front to back, and women’s from side to side. This means that men might be better at things like spatial awareness, and mechanics, but worse at multi-tasking. Women’s brains are multi-tasking powerhouses — and provide a suite of management skills.
That’s because management, is, in essence, multi-tasking. Any CEO always has multiple balls in the air, none of which she can afford to drop. The talent for keeping track multiple moving parts is key for organization effectiveness and efficiency.
Seeing the Big Picture
Ladies, let’s admit, we like to plan — whether for business or pleasure. According to the study, women’s brains are more efficient (they get more done with fewer neural connections), and this efficiency helps keep tabs on changing situations. In short, the same neuron structure that made your mom’s monthly bridge nights a success lend themselves to strategic corporate vision. The ability to think beyond just finishing the next project or deadline is an invaluable management skill. A company is like a ship, guiding it requires big picture awareness, not just focusing on the road in front of you.
Studies do show that women have better emotional intuition than men, and unfortunately this is too often wrapped up in BS stereotypes about sensitivity and weakness. The truth is, emotional intuition is a key leadership quality. A 2012 Gallup survey found that employees who work for a female boss are 1.26 times more likely to say that there is someone at work who encourages their development. When employees feel valued, they are both more engaged and more productive — the same survey found that employees working for a woman were 6% more engaged than those who worked for a man. And women employees working for women bosses were the most engaged of all surveyed groups.
Of course, is important not to stray too much into biological determinism. That’s not the lesson here. Talented, hard working people succeed no matter how their brain is “wired”, moreover if they wear a pair of stylish oxford shoes😊
But next time that someone (we all know one) mansplains the wage gap to you by telling you men and women are hardwired for different jobs, you can throw the real science at them. If there are really are hardwired differences — well, then let’s just say that the old boys club is in trouble.