July 19, 2020 //

Women in Leadership During Covid-19 – PART 4

To  round out this series titled Women in Leadership during COVID-19, I am examining one last set of reasons why I believe women leaders have out-performed men during this pandemic.

In Part 1 (released June 7, 2020) of this series, I provided the history and data that strongly supports the theory that women leaders have outshined male leaders during the COVID-19 crisis.

In Part 2 (released June 21, 2020) of this series, I explored the “Emotional Intelligence Paradox” that women face every day in the workplace, and how that contributes to the leadership gender gap, but which may also be one of the reasons behind why women leaders have outshined male leaders during the COVID-19 crisis.

In Part 3 (released July 5, 2020)  of this series, I presented another reason why I believe women leaders have outshined male leaders during the COVID-19 crisis — humility.

Now, in this Part 4 of the series, I am taking a look at how women see and manage risks differently than men  (which has shown itself to be particularly pronounced during this Pandemic) as well as how women leaders compare to men when it comes to vision-setting.

Women and Men Manage Risk Differently

A famous 1994 study made waves by identifying what is now referred to as the “white male effect.”  It turns out that white men perceive the risks of health and technology hazards to be much LOWER than do women and people of color.

Gallop has speculated that this disparity is because Women and people of color wake up to risk everyday, so they see it differently, assess it differently, and act in the face of it differently.

This body of research is often summarized in the following manner:  Women are less likely to “take risks” during a crisis than men.   BUT, I would caution that, in order to accept that conclusion, we first have to define the word “risk”, particularly as it relates the COVID-19 crisis.  For example, it was inarguably a very politically risky — but a less “risky” health and safety — move when Mayor of San Francisco London Breed  — a young black woman — shut down the city BEFORE there were many confirmed cases (and no confirmed deaths or any state/federal government mandates).  On the other hand, it can be said that male leaders (by and large) seem to be exhibiting just the opposite tendencies (in other words making riskier health/safety decisions, but less risky political decisions).

Therese Houston, author of How Women Decide, takes that data a step further, and addresses the presumptive correlation between risk-taking and “decisiveness” (a quality often ascribed more to men than to women).  “When you consider the research”, she says, “the fact that men take more risks does not mean that they are more ‘decisive’ than women; rather it more likely suggests that men are exhibiting a kind of self-centered recklessness that is borne out of the privilege of not having to consider the consequences of their decisions, whereas women are much more likely to make more data-driven decisions, which carefully consider all potential downsides to the ‘greater good'”.

And that bring us to the next female quality under this Blog’s microscope…

Female leaders rank higher in vision-setting (but are less often recognized for it)

Many studies have shown that women are (not surprisingly) more focused on building community and teams.  And on that, most of us tend to agree — perhaps to the detriment of women leaders.

Sara Laschever, a female executive coach and co-author of Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want, found that, while women struggle when it comes to negotiating for themselves on topics such as salary and career advancement, we excel when it comes to collaborating and negotiating when it comes to the “common good.”   And while experts cannot agree on whether this is because women are naturally more community-minded OR because they have been socialized to know what society expects of of their leadership style, it is virtually undisputed that unleashing “collective potential” constitutes a vital leadership skill when it comes to governing during this Pandemic. Why? Because there simply IS no SINGLE expert (or body of experts) who can definitively advise on how to contain/treat this virus, PLUS THE FACT that one myopic decision (born of narcissism or tunnel vision) is likely to lead to exponentially more deaths.

Finally, a recent McKinsey study also found that organizations with more than three women in the C-suite scored higher on employee survey questions about “direction” and “innovation.”  The study found that women tend to display two qualities more than their male counterparts (during and outside of a crisis):  The first was “expectations and rewards” (namely defining roles, clarifying expectations, and rewarding achievement targets); the second was “inspiration” (namely offering a compelling vision of the future and an optimistic implementation plan).  Ironically however, despite the fact that studies such as this have found that women demonstrate more of those “transformational” leadership qualities than do men, so much (of even the most recent) press continues to focus on the “softer skills” of how women lead.  For example, a lot has been said about the press conference for children that the Prime Minister of Norway (Erna Solberg) held, and more specifically about what it says about her “emotional intelligence”.  BUT considerably has been said about the strategic vision of Solberg’s multilateral cooperation plan, and the well-executed measures she has taken to stop the spread of the virus.

So yes….we know that this male/female leadership “paradox”….and associated gender gap… is apt to persist for years to come.  But what CANNOT be ignored or discounted is how these brave and brilliant women leaders have changed the face of history.

If you’re interested in taking a closer look at topics related to women in leadership, make sure to check out my recent blogs:: Women in Leadership during COVID-19 – Part 1, Women in Leadership during COVID 19 – Part 2, Women in Leadership during COVID-19 – Part 3, and Emotional Intellignce – Just the Facts Ma’am.

Or for an even deeper dive, you might consider our 1-hour (virtual) class Women in Leadership – The Emotional Intelligence Paradox, our 4-hour (8-person) Women’s Leadesrship Support Forum, or our 12-hour (virtual) Agile Women Leaders Certificate Program.

In the meantime, comment below:  Do you agree with the basic premise of this 4-Part Blog series?  And if so (and even if NOT), why do YOU think women leaders have excelled during the COVID-19 crisis?  We’d love to hear from all of you!


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