"Women seem to be predisposed to be more inquisitive and to see more possible solutions," the study's co-author, Gregory McQueen of Still University in Arizona, said in a statement. "At the board level where directors are compelled to act in the best interest of the corporation while taking the viewpoints of multiple stakeholders into account, this quality makes them more effective corporate directors."
The study, published in the International Journal of Business Governance and Ethics, surveyed 156 female and 486 male board members. It found that companies where women wielded significant influence were more successful than ones with men at the helm.
"We've known for some time that companies that have more women on their boards have better results," said Chris Bart, the study's other co-author and a professor of strategic management at the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University in Canada. "Our findings show that having women on the board is no longer just the right thing but also the smart thing to do. Companies with few female directors may actually be shortchanging their investors."
And yet, according to McQueen and Bart, women make up just nine percent of corporate board members worldwide. As of 2012, only 33 of the Fortune 1,000 were headed by women, Forbes reports. The most recent Galup data shows that most American workers still say they prefer a male boss.
The problem may have to do with stereotype and perception, but one thing that McQueen and Bart noticed is that the things people usually think of as female weaknesses -- a desire to have discussions, a need for consultation and cooperation -- may actually be among their strengths. And, other studies have shown, when it comes to typically male leadership characteristics, women do well, too.
Last year, leadership development experts Zeneger Folkman analyzed 7,280 of their clients' performance evaluations and found that women outscored men on 12 out of the 16 attributes most associated with great leaders.
"Two of the traits where women outscored men to the highest degree — taking initiative and driving for results — have long been thought of as particularly male strengths," Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman pointed out in their study. "As it happened, men outscored women significantly on only one management competence in this survey — the ability to develop a strategic perspective."
Carol Smith, the former publisher of Elle who is now in charge at Hearst, put it more bluntly. "Hands down women are better," she told the New York Times in 2009. "There’s no contest."
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