A recent study by Strategy & (formerly Booz & Co) highlights that just 3% of today’s CEO’s are female. The study also notes that female CEO’s are more likely to be fired (38%) compared to their male counterparts (27%), then goes on to explore the possible factors that are influencing these choices.
The only key professional difference noted between male and female CEO’s in the study is that a female CEO is more likely to be appointed from outside the company while a male CEO is more likely to be promoted from within.
In a related article in Quark, Max Nisen posits that female CEO’s hired from outside the company are most likely to be brought onboard during times of crisis which may factor into the higher turnover rate. A CEO brought in to deal with a mess has a lower chance of success than someone brought in to lead a thriving company. Couple this with the fact that CEO’s who fail to increase shareholder value tend to find their tenure short-lived and we begin to paint a clearer picture.
It’s important to note that these studies focus on women at the top of the world’s largest public companies. When it comes to entrepreneurship, more small businesses are started by women than men in many parts of North America. It’s worth considering that women may, quite simply, gravitate towards leadership positions that allow them to lead from their values, without the pressures of maximizing shareholder profit that are often in conflict with what’s best for the long term health of the company.
While there are always exceptions to the rule, most women gravitate towards a heart-centred leadership style where immediate profit may not be the most powerful decision-making factor. As long as the business remains profitable, a female leader is less likely to make decisions based solely on financial gain. That tendency to take a longer term view isn’t always compatible with the needs of shareholders, whose reason for investing is simple – to get the highest return possible in the shortest amount of time.
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You can read the entire study online at the Strategy & website.