When it comes to today’s fast-paced working world, we can likely all agree that to be successful, it is crucial to be agile and quick to respond to market changes. This involves being a self-aware, a problem-solver, trustworthy, a team player, good communicator, and, oftentimes, an empowering leader – regardless of which gender you identify with.

Gender disparities, however, encompassing global differences and gaps in these skills as well as, pay, work styles, assertiveness, and risk-taking, are still frequently highlighted in today’s modern organizations, typically leaving one to question whether it’s even possible for women to catch up in the business landscape.

However, these days there’s evidence that shows that women outperform men in business in a variety of ways, leaving us with but one question: are women better in business?

This question dares to look not only at the ongoing debate of gender inequality in the workplace, but it emphasizes the outdated perceptions, societal norms, and stereotypes in corporate culture.

So, let’s roll up our sleeves, dive into the data and explore this gender topic.


Ongoing Myths About Women at Work

First things first, it’s important to review the common misconceptions about women in business. Just like the phrase ‘‘women must act like men to be successful’’ in business, these popular beliefs about gender differences often contribute indirectly to inequality and delay (if not halt) progress for females at work.

Research shows that when context is given, it explains any gender differences observed in the workplace and that the smallest differences that exist are statistically meaningless. Essentially, when we talk about gender differences in the workplace, it's crucial to consider the context in which these differences arise. Often, what may seem like significant gaps between genders in certain aspects of work performance or behaviour can be attributed to various contextual factors rather than innate gender inequalities. Therefore, the research suggests that when these contextual factors are properly understood and accounted for, the observed gender differences tend to decrease or even disappear entirely. So, when we say the smallest differences are statistically meaningless, it's because once you adjust for context, those differences lose their significance in explaining gender differences. That’s why eliminating myths about women will help us in understanding how efficient they are at work, ultimately, whether they are better than men in business or not.

Here are three common myths you might have heard (and even believed) before:

1. Women are too emotional to succeed in business

Perhaps the most prominent and consistent stereotype, often used to question a women’s credibility, not just at work but in life, is the myth that women are too emotional to succeed in business. Emotion has a history of being associated with femininity or irrational behaviour, so when someone suggests that a woman is being emotional, they’re often implying that she cannot be thinking rationally. As a result, being ‘‘emotional’’ can question a women’s legitimacy.

During a conflict or a disagreement, studies have shown that when a women is labelled to be ‘‘emotional’’ or instructed to ‘‘calm down’’ she is perceived as less reasonable than a man who is instructed the same. Chances are that you have probably heard the question ‘‘Are you on your period?’’ in similar situations.

As girls are usually taught it’s okay to show feelings while boys might learn to hide theirs, women might naturally express themselves in ways that show emotions, like empathy, which makes others think they are too emotional, especially at work. Thus, it is undeniable that people often think women are more emotional than men, but this is simply not true.

Alternatively, when men assert themselves in the workplace, they are often seen as commanding respect, while women in similar positions may be unfairly labelled as cold, mean, or rude, highlight the double standards that exist regarding emotional expression and leadership traits based on gender.

2. Women will always prioritize family over career

Historically, societal expectations have assigned women domestic roles whereas men were encouraged to pursue leadership positions. This traces as far back as we can remember, where women were considered physically and morally unsuited to work and were instead employed to be mothers and wives, in line with cultural expectations.

Because of this, women have found it difficult to find work due to discrimination and gender bias, and because some employers prefer to avoid the hassle of having women take time off for maternity leaves. This can result in limited opportunities and networking, and workplace cultures more prone to male leadership.

Funnily enough, according to New York Times’ article ‘‘The Motherhood Penalty vs. the Fatherhood Bonus’’, fathers are more likely to be hired or promoted than bachelors as they portray  stability and commitment. On the contrary, women are simply expected to take care of their husband and children, meaning mothers are less likely to be hired for jobs, especially if they are pregnant, due to discrimination, unconscious bias and a  perceived  lack of commitment.

3. Women lack leadership skills

This myth is probably the most contradictory myth to be, as women are typically perceived as leaders and decision-makers at home.

Moreover, common myths that question a women’s leadership skills include:

  • Women lack confidence
  • They are not ambitious enough
  • They are less likely to take risks
  • They present poor negotiation skills
  • They struggle to balance work and family
  • They lack technical expertise or industry knowledge
  • They are more likely to micromanage or be controlling

Due to these beliefs, women are portrayed as submissive and supportive towards others. They are expected to occupy caregiving and support functions, such as administrative assistant, secretary, or receptionist. They are often encouraged to take non-technical positions such as nursing, social work, childcare, teaching, hospitality, and journalism.

Well, that’s enough of that, isn’t it?

Gender’s Data-Based Agenda

Despite historical challenges and receiving different treatment to men, women have proven themselves to be equally equipped and fit to take the same job positions and roles that men take. In fact,  women are more ambitious than ever, says McKinsey.

Additionally, according to the Harvad Business Review, scientific research shows that on average, men and women are more similar in their behaviour and skills than commonly believed. Therefore, avoiding myths, will in no doubt contribute to decreasing the gender achievement gap and progress. Consider, for instance, that:

1. Women are emotionally intelligent

While many assume that women are more emotionally intelligent than their male counterparts due to their ability to express emotions openly, studies have shown that men and women have similar levels of emotional intelligence. With that in mind it seems gender does not determine which gender is more emotionally intelligent than the other, rather it is dependent on their life experiences that shape an individual’s emotional intelligence.

Women, however, are often praised for their empathy, knack for interpersonal relationships, and social responsibility while men are more assertive, tolerant to stress and self-confident. These biases create gender stereotypes, where women are perceived to be better suited for nurturing roles, while men are viewed as more assertive and resilient, therefor suitable for leading roles. As a result, female leaders who are more likely to be put in high-pressure situations find themselves struggling as their abilities may be undervalued or overlooked compared to male leaders. However, it is essential to recognize that these stereotypes are limiting and often inaccurate as women also possess a diverse range of skills that are equally valuable in these situations. Thus, rather than viewing these traits as weaknesses, women should celebrate them as strengths that contribute to an effective and unique leadership style that leads to organisational success.

2. Women do not have to choose between career and family

Societal norms and expectations push women to choose and prioritize family over career, however, this is due to different cultural and traditional standards as well as organisations and laws. The fact that women get longer maternity leaves whereas fathers sometimes only have a few days or a few weeks to spend time with their newborn creates a gap between the genders. For instance, in the United Kingdom, paternity leaves can be either one or two weeks. It tends to be that women are expected and encouraged to stay on maternity leave for months and men are fostered to maintain their workflow at the office.

Of course it’s important to take some form of maternity leave and take care of a child, but a baby benefits from the presence of both parents, so why don’t men take paternity leave as often? As per the New York Times, it is due to fear of being stigmatized by employers and missing out on future opportunities. However, studies have shown that 130 new fathers and their partners from 10 different countries revealed positive experiences with extended paternity leave, despite their concerns about its impact on their careers. The significant benefits of paternity leave highlight five key areas:

  • Strengthening relationships
  • Establishing parental roles
  • Fostering lifelong bonds with children
  • Supporting spouses’ careers, and
  • Enhancing employee satisfaction and productivity

With the rise of dual-income households, many countries have installed new laws that change cultural expectations by adding paternity leaves. This trend continues to spread around the world as fathers are taking a more active role in raising newborns. On one hand, countries, like Lithuania, United States and the United Kingdom, offer fathers up to 30 days of paternity leave with partial pay to minimize the absence of women at work. On the other hand, Japan offers up one full year of paid paternal leave. Additionally, countries such as Slovenia, Iceland and Sweden offer possibilities to combine a shared maternal and paternal leaves that parents can benefit from.

These initiatives not only follow trends of dual-income households and fatherhood, but it also allows women to be freer in choosing what they want to prioritize whether it is family, career or both.

3. Women are naturally better at leading

It is said that women run households. If they are believed to do so, why wouldn’t they be able to lead organisations?

Based on previous societal norms and expectations, people believe that mothers are the  parent that children need during their growth. Additionally, parenting is often considered  the toughest unpaid job in the world  due to the high level of responsibility, stress, multi-tasking, and and pressure. For instance, here are some similarities between leadership and motherhood:

  • Effective communication is essential
  • Empathy and understanding are key traits
  • Decision-making and prioritization skills are crucial
  • Adaptability and flexibility are necessary for managing changing circumstances
  • Mothers and leaders serve as role models for others
  • Supporting growth of team members is vital
  • Conflict resolution skills are important for maintaining harmony
  • Resilience and perseverance are required when overcoming challenging situations

Being a mother, like being a leader, demands patience, communication, decision-making under pressure, empathy, and a deep understanding of the needs of others. They should both foster a safe environment where individuals feel safe, valued, heard, and supported. They also represent a source of inspiration and motivation for those around them.

4. Women step up in the face of adversity

As it is more likely for women to get penalized for doing things that men usually do. According to Forbes, studies have shown that both men and women were equally impacted by their own past risk-taking experiences and that women are more likely to face negative consequences for taking risks, for being ambitious, for behaving assertively or even when asking for a salary increase compared to men. Therefore, organisations need to focus on applying equal rewards for both genders rather than encourage women to take more risks.

Additionally, here are further reasons why women are better leaders than men:

Despite facing more barriers, such as technical knowledge gaps and limited networks, women have proven themselves to thrive and succeed but also take home twice as much pay as men.


Promoting Gender Inclusivity in Corporate Settings

It’s important for individuals, organisations, governments, and society to put in equal efforts towards gender inclusivity and equality in the workplace – and the world. Recognizing and embracing the varying strengths between individuals – not just specifically between men and women –is necessary in driving innovation and achieving long-term organisational success.

Organisations must prioritize emotional intelligence development to empower individuals and strengthen their interpersonal and leadership skills. Companies should also promote continuous learning and accountability among managers to encourage sustainable learning growth.

In essence, the answer to the question of whether women are better in business isn’t definitive, nor should it be. Rather the question itself permits us to analyse complexities of what both men and women bring to the table, encouraging a more seamless culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) through collaboration and mutual respect. As a result, businesses can attract and retain top talent, , to maximize their performance and the organisation’s successful growth. Additionally, this inclusion fosters a business world where everyone has an equal chance to succeed, regardless of gender.

Let’s come together to support equality, remove obstacles, and create a better future. Every empowered leader makes a difference. Together, we can create a world where everyone can reach their highest potential and achieve great things.

Enrol on a 100% online CMI qualification with DPG and advance your career today.