Tag Archives: The Globe and Mail

Why Women are Better CEOs, Presidents, and Prime Ministers

New research shows that women are far better at handling stress than men. I suppose that’s not a newsflash as most people already think that’s true, but consider the way in which this study frames it [Emphasis added]:

We consistently found the same general response pattern: while stressed women showed higher self-other distinction than women in the non-stressful control condition, men showed the converse pattern. More specifically, stressed women showed reduced emotional egocentricity bias, enabling them to judge the emotions of the other person in a way that was less influenced by their own emotional state. Moreover, their response times in the cognitive perspective-taking task decreased under stress, documenting that they were able to regulate the mismatch between their own and the “director’s” perspective faster under stress. Finally, stressed women showed a reduction of automatic imitative tendencies in the imitation-inhibition task, indicating that they were able to overcome low-level social signals interfering with their own movement intentions. Note that the latter finding is crucial. It highlights that women did not simply show an increase in other-related responses under stress – as this would have resulted in increased interference from automatic imitation. Instead, they were able to flexibly increase either self- or other-related representations, depending on the task demands which either required overcoming egocentric biases, or overcoming social interference.

As the stereotype goes, women are more “emotional” than men, so it would be much better for an organization or unit if it were managed by a man. However, this research is telling us that, when under stress, it is men who are less able to distinguish their emotional state from the intentions of those around them. It is men who are more adversely affected by stress. For women, it’s the opposite. In fact, women tend to be more prosocial [behaviour intended to benefit others] when they’re stressed. Meaning, instead of retreating inward, women are actually more helpful when they’re stressed.

This research certainly makes one think about the way that many organizations and countries are run today. Most people would agree that being a CEO, President, or Prime Minister certainly comes with oodles of stress. Unfortunately, the number of women who hold these positions is far outweighed by their male counterparts. Of course, there are a number of reasons for that, which we won’t get into in this post, but consider for a moment if the numbers were flipped. That is, what if there were more women CEOs (or high-powered leaders)? Or, what even if it was 50/50! What if the number of high-powered leaders and CEOs was 50% women and 50% men? At that point, would it be easier for folks to see, understand, and digest that women are actually better leaders and better at handling the stress?

Maybe it’s the language we use.

A quick Google search showed mixed results for “women are better CEOs.” In fact, many of the results near the top indicated that women CEOs are more likely to be fired. However, when I keyed in “women are better leaders,” I got plenty of positive results. Posts on Harvard Business Review, Business Insider, and articles talking about academic research in newspapers like The Globe and Mail.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the world during my time in it, it’s that change (usually) happens gradually. Rarely is there a massive cultural shift overnight. So, here’s hoping that research like this contributes to the realization for some that when it comes to managers and leadership, women just might have an edge over men.

ResearchBlogging.orgTomova L, von Dawans B, Heinrichs M, Silani G, & Lamm C (2014). Is stress affecting our ability to tune into others? Evidence for gender differences in the effects of stress on self-other distinction. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 43, 95-104 PMID: 24703175

How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk: What About Canada?

I’ve been clearing out some of the tweets that I’ve favourited over the last week or so and one of them was a fun dialect quiz from the New York Times Sunday Review. There are 25 questions that ask you the various ways you do (or do not) refer to certain things in the world around you. For instance, do you say y’all or youse or you guys (or something else) when referring to other people?

I found it relatively fun.

If you do decide to do it, though, I’d advise you to be careful in selecting an answer too quickly. There were a few questions where I clicked on one option and hit next and as the next question was loading, I noticed that there was actually an option for (none of these).

I realize that the New York Times is hosting this quiz, but I would have been interested to see where I stand in Canada. Maybe The Globe and Mail or the National Post can look into doing something similar?

I grew up in the Toronto area and have spent some time in British Columbia (and now Ottawa), but I’d be interested to see how I compare to other Canadians. Since I did grow up in Toronto, I wonder if that throws a wrench into my dialect. And, since I’ve lived in so many different places (California, Hawaii, New Zealand, Michigan, Virginia, etc.).

On the whole, it turns out that my dialect is closest to the people in Portland or Seattle. If I’m being honest, after undergraduate university, the west coast of the continent is where I’ve spent most of my adult life. I spent about a year in California and about a year in British Columbia (and about a year in Hawaii). The next closest would have been Virginia with 2 years.