Why We Need More Women in Management: 5 Critical Reasons

de | 18 décembre 2016

Why We Need More Women in Management: 5 Critical Reasons

“Gender inequality is not only a pressing moral and social issue, but also a critical economic challenge.”   McKinsey Global Institute

The work environment, across the world, is in disarray: In many organizations employee engagement is dramatically low, stress and health problems are rampant, innovation and customer care are lagging, the talent pool is shrinking, rotation and absenteeism are high, and the well-being of workers, as well as the bottom line are suffering (1; 2).

An abundance of research is pointing the finger at management: Only 1 in 8 managers has been found to have the necessary talent. Failing leadership, poor selection, insufficient training and coaching of managers, as well as lack of assessment and accountability have been found to be the major reasons for this debacle (3; Morgan, 2014; Pfeffer, 2015; Wagner, 2015).

How can organizations improve this situation? A number of suggestions have been made (4; 5; 6). Prominently among the proposals on how to arrive at a work environment that is both result-oriented and favors the wellbeing of all employees, also figures the demand to promote more women to manager and leadership positions.

But numerous obstacles stand in the way of women’s career progression:

Women being held to higher standards, few successful female role models, prejudice and stereotypes, the lack of career obstacles for incompetent and overconfident men, women’s family obligations and confidence gap, inflexible hours, and perhaps most damaging, the erroneous belief, refuted by the data, that women are less effective leaders than men (7; 8; 9; 10; 11; Kay & Shipman, 2014; Sandberg, 2013)

Some women have been able to break down some of these barriers, but advances have been slow. Women earn advanced professional degrees in record number, even surpassing men in many areas. Yet, as they move up the corporate ladder, their numbers steadily shrink: New women hires represent 53%, supervisors 37%, managers 30%, VP’s 26%, Senior Executives 14%, and CEOs 3% (7; 9).

The same trend can be observed in science (12), depriving women in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) of critical career opportunities, and diminishing the vital talent pool in academia and industry.

“We’ve heard all the excuses for not having more women in top leadership. Here’s a new idea: Stop talking and start acting.”   Manpower Group

Five critical reasons why it makes sense to increase the number of women in management and leadership positions are outlined below.

  1. Competence

Numerous studies have demonstrated why women are well suited to assume managerial and leadership positions at all levels, from line manager to CEO (7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 13).

In a recent comprehensive study, for example, based on 360-degree evaluations, with ratings from peers, superiors and direct reports, women were ranked significantly higher than men in 12 of the 16 competencies considered to be part of outstanding leadership (13).

Another large-scale investigation found that women outperform men on measures of motivating others, fostering communication and producing high-quality work (8).

Leadership skills exhibited by women managers are strongly correlated to organizational success factors, such as retaining talent, customer satisfaction, employee engagement and the bottom line (11).

Women are also successful entrepreneurs. In fact, female founders are the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs. Teams with female founders outperform all-male teams (14).

Overall, women were found to be effective leaders. And the higher they move, from middle, to senior, to executive management, the more positively they are perceived (7).

2. Talent Pool

“As leaders in organizations look hard to find the talent they need to achieve exceptional results, they ought to be aware that many women have impressive leadership skills.”   Jack Zenger & Joseph Folkman

Worldwide, the talent pool is shrinking. The difficulty or impossibility to find talents is leading more and more companies to prolong deadlines, refuse new contracts and lower quality, as well as to chronic work overload, and in turn, to more stress, absenteeism, and personnel rotation (8).

Qualified workers are already in short supply in many sectors and countries. Globally, the shortage is at 35%. When you consider this alarming lack of well-trained and competent people everywhere, a trend that is only getting worse, it would seem only logical for employers to turn more to women, yet only 2% do so (8).

In light of the fact that talents are indispensable for innovation and business success, it is paradoxical to find that organizations continue to underutilize and undervalue their high-potential female talent.

3. Organizational Culture

Research has revealed that women managers contribute significantly to work environments that enhance both performance and satisfaction.

For example, Gallup has shown that women managers are more engaged than their male colleagues. They also have more engaged teams than men. Women managers with all-women teams obtain the highest engagement scores, whereas male teams managed by men scored the lowest.

Higher levels of engagement means higher-performing workgroups. Women managers are more apt than men to find stimulating tasks to challenge their employees. They also check more frequently than their male counterparts on their employees’ progress, provide more feedback to help them achieve their goals and offer more praise and recognition. The implication is clearly that organizations should hire and promote more women managers (15).

Women managers excel at developing, motivating and inspiring others, building relationships and integrity and engaging in self-development, collaboration and teamwork (13), all attributes typically associated with leaders who contribute optimally to a favorable work-culture (16).

4. Equity

As the data clearly indicate, women are seen at least as effective managers and leaders as men, yet they are not being rewarded in the same way with respect to pay, promotions and access to top positions. Despite some progress, the glass ceiling is still in effect and women continue to suffer from unequal treatment. When their continuous engagement and efforts are not rewarded, they start to question whether the struggle is worth it (7).

In this context, it should be noted, that contrary to wide-spread misconceptions, the vast majority of highly educated and high-achieving women, do not leave their job after becoming mothers to raise children, but do so reluctantly, because they are not fulfilled in their position and are discouraged by their low chances of advancement (17; 10).

It is only fair to promote women to positions equal to men that correspond to their level of training, competence, experience and aspirations. Favorable work environments, as revealed by Great Places to Work, are characterized by equity and ethical values. Treating any employee unfairly is clearly recognized not only as unethical and unacceptable, but is highly demotivating.

5. The Bottom Line

“The evidence is clear, as is the message: When women do better, economies do better.”   Christine Lagarde

Women help companies be more competitive. Businesses with the most women managers and board members have better returns. Gender diversity helps companies maximize their profit. Women bring a unique perspective and different skills and increase the talent pool (8; 10).

Leadership skills exhibited by women managers are strongly correlated to organizational success factors, such as retaining talent, customer satisfaction, employee engagement and the bottom line (11).

Companies that have the most women in their C-Suite are also among the most reputable companies. The benefits associated with a high reputation include talent recruiting, employee motivation and profitability (18).

Women’s purchasing power today is impressive. Women make more than 85% buying decisions, including 91% for homes, 66% for PC’s, 65% for cars and 80% for health-care (Morgan, 2014). This is another reason why women need to be part of management at all levels: To be able to influence business decisions and identify trends for new services and products.

Women-owned businesses in the U.S. continue to flourish. Their number is now reaching almost 10 million enterprises, making up 30% of all businesses in the country and providing one in seven jobs among privately owned firms.Their revenue is estimated to be close to $1.5 trillion (19).

Finally, on an international and macro-economic level, the McKinsey Institute in their latest study of the power of gender parity, revealed that a ‘full potential’ scenario, where women participate in the economy identically to men, would increase the annual global GDP by $28 trillions in 2025, the equivalent of the combined US and Chinese economies today (20).

The Future of Women in Management

“The future organization simply cannot be as competitive without more women in leadership roles.”   Jacob Morgan

Given all the critical reasons why we need more women managers, one could become hopeful that many more women would soon accede to managerial positions. However, the little improvement so far, in some cases even reversals, has led to some skepticism (10).

The good news is that most millenials, who will soon be the largest worker contingent, seem more open-minded about promoting women to managerial positions.

The trend for more women-owned firms is also likely to continue and become even stronger. And as more and more people establish their own business – it is estimated that in just a few years independents might make up as much as 50% of the workforce (Morgan, 2014) – another promising avenue opens up for women.

Bringing it all together

“When we honor women and our partners (at home and in the workplace) as individuals who have their own careers and aspirations, and we just give to them as we’d like them to give to us, the world of work is a better place.”   Josh Bersin

The stakes are high: Providing access to more women to management positions at all levels not only helps women to thrive, but is also a major impetus to accelerate the companies’ economic development.

Five critical reasons why we need more women in management have been outlined:

–Numerous studies have demonstrated that women managers and leaders are just as effective as men

–Women represent an extraordinary talent pool. This is particularly significant in light of the dramatic shortage of highly qualified and skilled workers worldwide

–Women excel at creating productive and engaging work environments

–It is only fair that women be treated equally to men with respect to pay and career opportunities that correspond to their training, competence and aspirations

–Businesses with the most women managers, members of the C-Suite and corporate boards have better financial returns. Women are successful entrepreneurs. Women-owned businesses are flourishing.


Kay, K., Shipman, C. (2014), The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know, Harper Bussiness.

Morgan, J. (2014), The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization, Wiley.

Pfeffer, J. (2015), Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time, Harper Business.

Sandberg, S. (2013), Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Knopf.

Wagner, R. (2015), Widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees As If They’re Real People, McGraw-Hill Education.

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  7. http://www.manpowergroup.fi/Global/Cracking%20the%20Case%20-%20Why%20You%20Need%20Women%20Leaders.pdf
  8. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/importantopic-women-business-what-men-can-do-josh-bersin
  9. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/01/14/women-and-leadership/
  10. https://hbr.org/2013/08/why-do-so-many-incompetent-men
  11. http://www.socialsciencespace.com/2015/02/fixing-the-leaky-pipeline-of-women-in-science-and-math/
  12. https://hbr.org/2012/03/a-study-in-leadership-women-do
  13. https://www.virgin.com/entrepreneur/three-reasons-why-investing-women-good-business
  14. http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/183026/female-bosses-engaging-male-bosses.aspx
  15. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/five-key-factors-impact-employee-engagement-marcel-lucien-goldschmid?trk=mp-reader-card
  16. https://hbr.org/2014/12/rethink-what-you-know-about-high-achieving-women
  17. http://fortune.com/2016/03/08/most-admired-companies-women/
  18. http://www.womenable.com/66/the-state-of-women-owned-businesses-in-the-u.s.:-2015
  19. http://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/employment-and-growth/how-advancing-womens-equality-can-add-12-trillion-to-global-growth

Marcel Lucien Goldschmid, PhD, Director of MTC