Recently I came across an article that grabbed my attention with its suggestion that women get more effective as they get older . The thinking goes that females keep feeling the pressure to prove themselves in a way that men do not. And second, whereas men tend to stop asking for feedback once they reach a certain level of seniority, women do not.
These might be true. But what I really took from the article was its recognition that, in its surveys, women did better on 12 out of 16 key leadership competencies – and those competencies were far from being the clichéd ‘nurturing’ ones like collaborating and developing relationships with others. No, women won out on aspects such as ‘getting results’, too.
Now, I see no sense at all in promoting male-versus-female leadership talent competitions. The distinctions in performance on these 16 competencies were not so great that any of them made me think ‘That’s categorically about what sex you are born!’. If you ask me, many of these differences are about people being individuals rather than male or female. For me, where such stats are useful is in eroding caricatures (eg. the nurturing female leader) rather than as tools to support rigid gender definitions. Rather than ‘Look, women are better at these skills and stronger in these kinds of roles than men’, it should be ‘Look at all this grey. Look how little difference there is. Now please can you explain the pay gap?’