But the results also provided some surprises.
Of the 16 competencies Zenger Folkman measures through 360-degree assessments that differentiate high performers from others, women excelled at 12 of the 16.
Furthermore, two of the traits where women outscored men to the highest degree — taking initiative and driving for results — have long been considered male dominated.
Men outscored women significantly on only one management competence — the ability to develop a strategic perspective.
The bias for most respondents held that females would be better at nurturing competencies such as developing others and relationship building. While this may be true, the competencies with the largest differences between males and females were taking initiative, practicing self development, integrity/honesty and driving for results.
“People who are at senior levels tend to get higher scores on strategic thinking,” Zenger said. “The fact that there are less women in that upper level, that it’s not something we currently expect, might explain that study finding.”
The majority of leaders — 64 percent — interviewed were men. And the higher the level, the more men there were. In the survey sample, 78 percent of top managers, 67 percent at the next level down and 60 percent at the manager level below that were men.
“There’s a talented group of unnoticed people that deserve to have the same investment you’re giving their male counterparts to move to these higher positions,” Zenger said. “It’s time to move beyond old patterns because women can think just as long-term as men; see the big picture and the detailed focus on competitors, the industry and what’s happening globally. And there’s nothing that gives men an advantage in any of those regards.”
Of the 15 functions the survey studied, women were rated more positively in 12. Some of the largest gaps in attendance were in functions that tended to be male dominated — such as sales, product development, legal, engineering, IT, and research and development. The percentage of women leaders represented in these functions ranged from 13 to 33 percent.