Research: Women Score Higher Than Men in Most Leadership Skills

by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman - Published on HBR


For the first time in history, a major political party in the United States has several women who have declared their candidacy to be their party’s presidential nominee. But TV pundits have been questioning whether, despite the progress indicated by the huge influx of women elected into Congress last fall, the U.S. is ever going to elect a woman to the country’s highest leadership position.


This is baffling to us, especially in light of what we see in our corporate research. In two articles from 2012 (here and here) we discussed findings from our analysis of 360-degree reviews that women in leadership positions were perceived as being every bit as effective as men. In fact, while the differences were not huge, women scored at a statistically significantly higher level than men on the vast majority of leadership competencies we measured.


We recently updated that research, again looking at our database of 360-degree reviews in which we ask individuals to rate each leader's effectiveness overall and to judge how strong they are on specific competencies, and had similar findings: that women in leadership positions are perceived just as — if not more — competent as their male counterparts.