A study by Academics Andrew Healy and Jennifer Pate in the Economic Journal suggests that the lack of women at a high-level in companies is because women are more willing to compete in teams while men prefer to compete on their own. While men and women in their study were equally competent at given tasks, the report suggests that there are better ways of measuring performance in a company that focuses on teamwork rather than competition. Such a change would be more likely to raise the numbers of female business leaders.
The Guardian in London reports that according to study co-author Jennifer Pate, “It appears to be the case that women often opt out of entering these competitive environments…Importantly, while qualified women opt out, unqualified men opt in. As a result, the gender competition gap may result in organisations failing to select the most qualified leaders.”
Their study is echoed in the mutually re-inforcing relationship between business and testosterone-fuelled images of business in TV shows such as The Apprentice where playground posturing rules. The authors of the study argue that changing internal practices may help but it’s clear that business images have a role to play too. Images in internal communications and branding highlighting healthy team debate and collaboration would begin to take the cultural kudos away from what the study authors call “the testosterone-loaded, gladiatorial-style” competition.