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There are few gender differences among senior leaders

01 May 2019

Male and female workers are more similar than different in terms of personality and emotional intelligence, especially at the senior leadership level – but the factors leading to their success are influenced by stereotypical gender beliefs.

That is one conclusion from an extensive study of UK workers by MSc student Alexandra Jégou-Danon and Luke Treglown from University College London. They are presenting their work today at our annual conference in Harrogate.

More than eighty thousand UK workers, representing 22 different office-based industries, completed assessments as part of their own HR procedures, including more than 11,000 senior executives.

The assessments rated their leadership skills, self-awareness, mood control, problem solving, and independent thinking, among other attributes. These traits were analysed with information relating to each person’s gender, educational level, and age.

There was little significant difference between the sexes in most categories – particularly at the senior leadership level. However, the assessment process that led to their success was influenced by traditional beliefs, such as expectations for women to be more caring, compassionate, and emotional, and for men to be more aloof, proud, and aggressive.

Women also did not benefit from age and education, in the same way men did, to reach executives roles.

Alexandra Jégou-Danon said:

“Contrary to beliefs, this study found working women and men to be more similar than different, with similarities being even more pronounced at the senior leadership level.

However, this study also highlighted that leaders continue to be evaluated differently, based on traditional beliefs in gender roles and stereotypes, despite the lack of empirical evidence.

Our study emphasises the need for further research into candidate evaluation to counter gender biases and enable both sexes to realise their full potential at work.”

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