Gender shouldn't be a factor in whether or not a person can be a great leader — a person's leadership abilities should depend on their individual strengths and personality traits. However, in many cases, women aren't encouraged to take on leadership roles as often as their male counterparts, contributing to an imbalance of who's in power. According to the Huffington Post, last year, only 23 Fortune 500 Companies were led by women. But women are just as qualified as men are to lead, so why is there such a huge disparity between them?
A 2015 study by talent management system Saba Software, conducted by the Harris Poll, found that 60 percent of male employees expect their companies to play an active role in their individual career options, versus 49 percent of female employees who expect this. Emily He, former chief marketing officer at Saba (now the CMO at DoubleDutch), said that this supports findings from other studies that women are more hesitant to speak up about their career ambitions. But Saba also discovered that women are driven more by intrinsic motivations about work, rather than what their jobs or employers demand from them.
"In contrast to men, who tend to be career-centric and want to maximize their financial return from work, women view work more holistically, as a component of their overall life plan," He told Business News Daily. "Therefore, they're more likely to approach their careers in a self-reflective way and value factors such as meaning, purpose, connection with co-workers and work-life integration."
Women's inclination toward a holistic, self-reflective approach could explain why female employees define leadership differently than some men do. Sixty-five percent of women (versus 56 percent of men) said they view leaders as those who share their knowledge and connect with their colleagues to help the team and the business. When women bring this attitude into managerial roles, it may actually make them stronger, more-effective leaders, He said. However, despite their advantages, Saba's survey found that only 60 percent of women said they feel that they are leaders based on their participation in their business.
Women may not always realize how poised for success they are in leadership roles, but their potential and abilities are undeniable. Business News Daily asked female leaders to share their thoughts on women in power. Here are 17 reasons women make great leaders.
They value work-life balance.
"Women are great leaders because we are able to balance professional and personal leadership skills. It's easier to approach a women leader with a personal request, or a sensitive question. I care about my team and their well-being, which includes their performance at work and their work-life balance. I also find women more proactive in becoming mentors, and sometimes it's already such an open and communicative relationship that the transition to mentor is easy." – Amy Killoran, creative manager, I Love Travel
They are empathetic.
"Most women are naturally empathetic and value relationships. This enables them to have a strong understanding of what drives and motivates people, and how to acknowledge different people for their performance." – Anna Crowe, CEO and founder, Crowe PR
They make great listeners.
"Women make great leaders because we take the time to listen instead of reacting right away. We appreciate people and their viewpoints. Whether they are right or wrong, we hear them out and then make our decision. We tend to give people chances that no others do." – Jo Hausman, career and leadership coach and author, "Go For It! A Woman's Guide to Perserverance" (Best Seller Publishing, 2016)
They are nurturing.
"One of the key aspects of leadership is the ability to help your team members develop their own skills and strengths. Women are naturally nurturing, which in the best scenarios can translate to helping those around you succeed." – Marilyn Heywood Paige, vice president of marketing, FiG Advertising
They focus on teamwork.
"The women [I've worked with] consistently demonstrate passion, enthusiasm and an immense capacity to serve and be served by others. I've observed women make bold and wise decisions as leaders while relying on others to be part of their team. The environment is less authoritarian and more cooperative and family-like, but with solid leadership." – Katharine M. Nohr, principal, Nohr Sports Risk Management [See Related Story: 12 Businesses You Didn't Know Were Started by Women]
They're good at multitasking.
"Women make great leaders as we are natural multitaskers. The ability to decisively and quickly respond to simultaneous and different tasks or problems at a time is a critical component to successful leadership." – Carolann Tutera, president, SottoPelle
They're motivated by challenges.
"We are creative problem solvers motivated by obstacles. The desire to overcome a challenge fuels us to get things accomplished. Leaders don't take 'no' for an answer." – Jackie Zlatanovski, founder, Flik Flops
They're strong communicators.
"Communication is said to be among a woman's strongest skill — and female leaders know how to use it! Whether communicating with employers, co-workers, or partners, an open communication stream allows for clarity in executing roles and responsibilities. Female business leaders are able to communicate regularly, clearly and openly." – Tina Bacon-DeFrece, president, Big Frog
They dream big.
"Women make great leaders because they have an innate ability to dream big, challenge assumptions and inspire teams — and they know how to translate big ideas into concrete action and results." – Angela Dejene, executive vice president, Crosswind Media & Public Relations
They handle crisis situations well.
"Many women, especially moms, are trained caretakers and know how to deal with crisis situations at home with compassion and patience. These attributes become very relevant when a woman leader is dealing with crisis situations whether this is related to HR or [clients]." – Huma Gruaz, president and CEO, Alpaytac PR
They can wear many hats.
"Wearing many hats is often a regular occurrence in a women’s life. They often balance careers, households and even aging parents, among other things. Women pivot, adjust and focus on solutions. Resting in the doom and gloom can be time-consuming, so many shift to find positive solutions to life and work problems." – Gretchen Halpin, chief strategy officer, Hewins Financial Advisors
They check their egos.
"Ego so often gets in the way of good decision-making in the C-suite. Women exhibit ego differently and they are good at decision-making with the ego held in check. This is a key advantage in working with boards of directors, partners and customers." – Joan Wrabetz, CTO, Quali
They have high emotional intelligence.
"Emotional intelligence — the ability to recognize emotions in yourself and others and relate — is something that has recently gained momentum as an essential leadership behavior. I believe this is something that comes more naturally to women than men, and is something that I've personally encountered in my career. To truly create a great place to work and to get the best of out employees, demonstrating emotional intelligence as a leader is critical." – Lakshmi Raj, co-founder and co-CEO, Replicon
"Women make great leaders because we are flexible, and agile. We can see the direction we thought we should take our company in isn't working and we regroup and change course for the better without much deliberation." – Danita Harris, CEO, Rated M
They lead by example.
"Women lead by example, and in so many cases, women have climbed the ladder so they have experienced a variety of roles before they get to the leadership ones. Experience is key." – Harriet Taub, executive director, Materials for the Arts
They make their jobs look effortless.
"I believe women make phenomenal leaders because they are experts at making the impossible seem possible. And sometimes on a good day they even make it look effortless. Women are pragmatic, resilient and usually able to maneuver tricky situations with grace. Their perspectives are borne out of a mix of trial by fire and sheer fortitude. They look at the world with bravery and are able to piece together the world around them like a complex puzzle." – Jody Clower, founder and CEO, Nestiny
They defy the odds.
"Women make great leaders because the odds are against us to lead. When you're the underdog, it takes an extra push to get to the top. That's why the women who emerge on top are extraordinarily strong and capable. We had to fight to get there!" – Sarah Attman, principal, Sarah Rose Public Relations
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon Taylor.