Recent studies have compared male and female leadership styles, strengths and weaknesses and the results are in... women are skilled leaders.
From Oprah Winfrey to Linda Darling-Hammond, Sheryl Sandberg to Yingluck Shinawatra, female leadership around the world is increasing, and with good reason.
Female Leadership is on the Rise
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women now hold 51% of management positions in the U.S., up from 26% in 1980. Hanna Rosin’s TED Talk “The Rise of Women,” notes that of the 15 careers that will grow the most in the next decade, women dominate 13 of them.
In the book Man Down, journalist Dan Abrams investigates several areas in which women dominate, from driving, to investing, to practicing medicine, studies show that women are far more effective in their problem-solving and decision-making, than often perceived.
According to Bob Sherwin, “Why Women are More Effective Leaders Than Men,” both male and female employees rate women higher in 12 of 16 leadership characteristics such as initiative, inspiration, collaboration, follow-through and integrity. Mr. Sherwin also notes that as women age, they become even more effective because they continue to seek input from others in how to improve and they make adjustments based on feedback, whereas men sometimes do not.
Male and Female Brains
In several studies, neuroscientists have discovered many characteristics in the female brain that increase the propensity for leadership success. For example, the Pre-frontal Cortex which is in charge of impulse control, problem-solving, analyzing cause/effect, and organizational skills, develops 4-6 years faster in women and continues to remain more active throughout life, compared to males. The Corpus Collosum connects the right and left hemispheres of the brain; it is often thicker in females allowing more whole brain connections and engagement instead of the “compartmentalization” often found in the male brain. Also attributed to more whole brain connectivity is the fact that women often have up to 10x more “white matter” in their brains which allows information to be communicated between the two hemispheres at a faster rate. In addition, females have more oxytocin, which many believe results in increased impulse control and collaborative and relational connections, strong characteristics for successful leaders.
Perhaps the most intriguing difference in the female brain is the XX Factor. A female is comprised of an XX chromosome combination and a male, an XY combination. The X chromosome carries over 1500 mutations, the Y only has 100. Genetically speaking, the X chromosome is the cognitive hot spot involving critical thinking and communication abilities. Because women have an XX combination, they have over 3000 cognitive combinations compared to a male with an XY pattern who has only 1600. This is the reason that many scientists believe that males are more likely to suffer from disorders such as schizophrenia and dyslexia; if their X is damaged, they do not have a cognitive backup. If the female X is damaged, she employs what is called "X inactivation" and engages the other healthy X chromosome.
Healthy Female Brains
As we age, females are very sensitive and susceptible to hormonal and chemical fluctuations and those fluctuations can drastically alter brain effectiveness. Doctors such as Dr. Daniel Amen, recommend that women over 35 regularly monitor (every 18-24 months) several health components that are not part of a routine check-up, including: a complete blood count, metabolic panel with fasting blood sugar and lipid panels, HgA1C, vitamin D, thyroid, C-reactive protein, homocysteine, ferritin, free & total serum testosterone, cortisol & sulfated DHEA, estrogen and progesterone.
The gut has just as many nerve endings in it as the brain and doctors often refer to the gut as the "second brain". The gut, or intestines, are responsible for 80% of our immunity and they regulate good and bad bacteria levels in our body. Due to fluctuating hormones, diet and stress, our gut can get out of balance fairly quickly and that can lead to weight gain, fatigue, headaches, aches and pains, insomnia, depression and emotional upheaval.
Unhealthy leaders are not as effective. To avoid these issues, doctors recommend taking a pre/probiotic supplement to regulate bacteria levels and maintain healthy brain function. After trying several products, I have found tremendous success with a product called Thrive Probiotic. It is a 3-step daily routine that incorporates pre/probiotics, vitamins, antioxidants, and protein to regulate the digestive and adrenal system and it WORKS! If interested, order it here.
Females are also very sensitive to Adrenal Fatigue, which is the body's response to stress, resulting in the overproduction of adrenaline, DHEA and cortisol, all of which can hamper brain activity. Thus, effectively managing and lowering stress should be a top priority.
We have all witnessed successful and unsuccessful male and female leaders; but what is of utmost importance is that we don't stereotype a gender in order to put limits on it.
Females have tremendous leadership strengths and often a unique and intuitive perspective that can be utilized to produce positive change that benefits all.
Effective female leaders...may we know them, grow them, and be them.
To learn more, check out these books and articles:
The title, "Fashioned to Reign," is from Kris Valloton's book, which takes an inside look at the Christian perspective of women in leadership.
Julie Adams, Adams Educational Consulting, www.effectiveteachingpd.com