Starting from the last century, more and more people have started to advocate for the idea of the rise of women as business leaders. It is commonly proclaimed that women are in fact better business leaders than men are. However, is that true? At the present moment, women merely make up 14.6 percent of business executives and less than 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs (Cueto, 2015). Why is this the case? According to the Gap Report (Liswood, 2014) and EU Progress Report (European Commission, 2012), there are multiple reasons serving as barriers in relation to women leadership. This essay will prove that women generally do not make better business leaders than men do based on three reasons which are the balance between work and life, the stereotype about women being less competent, and the lack of confidence.
1. Work/life balance
Primarily, women struggle with work/life balance and this has emerged as a huge disadvantage when they try stepping into more leadership positions. The reason is because women conventionally have more conflicts due to the amount of roles they perform (Carnicer, 2004; Poelmans, 2001) and even nowadays, family commitments remains a gigantic obstacle for the career development of women (Emslie & Hunt, 2009). As claimed by Koziara (1981), although the number of women with careers interrupted by child bearing is declining, women are still much more frequently to have factors of their life impacted negatively on their careers. It is no wonder that married women have more responsibility, especially when it comes to their children. Therefore, a lot of women have struggled to balance their professional and personal time. On top of that, taking leaves might not be advisable for working professionals but female workers are more likely to apply for leaves for the sake of their children. The idea is further reinforced by Doughty (2015), who reported that a survey organized by the EU statistics arm Eurostat and published by the Office for National Statistics, showed that working mothers are very likely to take sick leaves to stay at home to look after their children. Additionally, according to Yapp (2017), researchers also found that women spend three times as long on household chores as compared to their male partners, regardless of how much they work outside. As a result, family life and child care are time-consuming, require heaps of energy, and consequently become restraints for women to become business leaders.
2. Stereotype about women being less competent
On top of that, one ordinary stereotype is that women have lower competency than men. As a matter of fact, women are not less competent but rather, the traits associated with men are more highly valued for leadership positions; envisioning being one example (Obodaru, 2009). This is supported by a study of thousands of assessments collected by Insead’s executive education program over the past five years, it is revealed that women surpassed men in various areas measured by 360-degree assessments but yet, score low on one key leadership capability: envisioning (Obodaru, 2009). As reported by Mayo (2014), envisioning is the capability to conceptualize and articulate a possible future for an organization or company. The downfall of many failed leaders has been accounted for his/her lack of vision (Mayo, 2014). Likewise, an outstanding business leader has to walk the fine line between planning for a future state and capitalizing on the opportunities that are ripe for the present context (Mayo, 2014). One remarkable example of why the capability of envisioning is indispensable in the business world can be seen on how Steve Jobs, who founded Apple Computers in 1976, revolutionized the world with computers and gadgets he created. By that time, in spite of the fact that personal computers were still new and not many people could afford it, he envisioned that personal computers will become reachable and attainable to everyone one day (Andersen, 2011). By following and realizing his vision, the success of Mac computers and iPhone can be witnessed throughout the world today. Thus, this explains why fewer women are represented in senior positions due to the lack of envisioning skills. In summary, while women are competent, they lack the one skill which is most required for taking leadership roles in the business world.
3. Lack of confidence
In addition, women are not as confident as men. Based on Obodaru (2014), men speak more boldly and confidently on an issue, albeit with very little data to back it up. One might contend that speaking confidently has no relation whatsoever to becoming a business leader. Nonetheless, it is certified that confidence is a key driver in attaining and maintaining positions of power and status, with implications for goal achievement (Barber & Odean, 2001; Lundeberg, Fox, & Punc´cohar´, 1994; Reuben, Sapienza, & Zingales, 2012). In actual fact, the shortage of female confidence is increasingly well proven and documented. In 2011, the Institute of Leadership and Management, in the United Kingdom, surveyed British managers about how confident they feel towards their job and professions (Kay & Shipman, 2014). Half the female respondents reported self-doubt about their careers and job performance, compared to less than a third of male respondents. Additionally, past research has demonstrated a confidence gap between men and women, with women being under-confident in their skills and performance in certain contexts (Kay & Shipman, 2014; Niederle & Vesterlund, 2007). This confidence gap occurs in domains including salary negotiations (Babcock & Laschever, 2003), self-promotion (Desvaux, Devillard-Hoellinger, & Meaney, 2008), and performance (Niederle & Vesterlund, 2007), all predecessor to succeed in managerial positions. As stated by Shipman (2014), “the studies of business-school students have found that men tend to initiate salary negotiations four times as often as women do, and that when women do negotiate, they ask for 30 percent less money than men do”, men are proven to be more confident in the business world. Hence, it is certain that confidence is a must have competency in taking leadership roles and this is also what makes women slightly inferior to men when it comes to business settings. To sum up, men possess more confidence than women as they do not doubt about themselves as much as compared to women.
By all accounts, it is clear that women experience more career interruptions, lack main competencies and the confidence required for leadership positions. Undeniably, it does not necessarily mean that there are no competent women who are well suited to take on leadership roles. Despite the heated argument on whether men or women make better business leaders, at the end of the day, let the one who is deemed competent become the leader, regardless of gender. Nevertheless, based on the disparity in numbers between male and female leaders, it is certain that, overall, women do not make better business leaders.