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The Importance of Gender Diversity in Leadership Roles

Written by Katalin Éva Nagy, organization expert at MedRes

At Medres, we have experienced the benefits of a gender-diverse management team consisting of three women and four men, despite the persisting underrepresentation of women in leadership roles. Women’s representation in management could bring diversity to the table, providing different perspectives and skills that could lead to increased innovation and better decision-making. Research suggests that having diverse viewpoints in the boardroom is beneficial. Furthermore, having women in management positions could inspire other female employees to strive for leadership roles (Arvate, Galilea & Todescat, 2018). In the following paragraphs, we will discuss the challenges hindering women’s access to leadership positions and the resulting benefits.

Male dominance in management teams
Men continue to dominate management positions, as shown by surveys and research revealing women’s underrepresentation in leadership roles. While the percentage of female managers in the European Union is around 34%, it is slightly higher at 39% in Hungary, where our company is headquartered. However, this does not necessarily extend to senior management as there is currently no available statistical data for this level. It is also worth noting that these statistics apply to all management levels, from group to company managers (KSH/Eurostat 2018).

Barriers faced by female managers: pay gap, family responsibilities, and strong woman bias
While not all women may aspire to leadership roles, those who do face numerous obstacles that their male counterparts do not have to contend with. Some of these barriers are well-known, such as the gender pay gap and the impact of family responsibilities. However, there are also less obvious, subconscious obstacles that can impede female leaders’ progress. In her TED talk, Robin Hauser highlighted the issue of societal biases against strong women, which can influence decision-making processes when appointing female leaders. These biases are often unrecognized and can have a significant impact on the representation of women in leadership positions. Therefore, discussing and addressing these issues is critical to promoting gender diversity and inclusivity in the workplace.

Advantages of women’s success: innovation
However, studies have shown that companies with greater diversity, particularly in terms of gender representation in management, are more likely to be innovative. Rocio Lorenzo discussed the findings of a study in her TED talk, which revealed that the proportion of women in management must be at least 20% to have a positive impact on innovation.

The impact of women in management: strong leadership
Additionally, in 2012, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman published two articles on their research into the leadership skills of men and women. During their analysis of 360-degree reviews, they discovered that women in leadership roles were perceived to be equally effective as their male counterparts. Moreover, while the variances were minor, women tended to score at a statistically significant higher level than men in most of the leadership competencies measured.

Collaboration of genders: a key to informed decision making
In my experience, women and men tend to have different approaches to managing people and tasks in the workplace. Women often display more nurturing and collaborative behaviors, while men tend to focus on more direct and authoritative approaches. For example, women may prioritize building relationships with team members and promoting a positive work environment, while men may emphasize meeting goals and enforcing rules. 

Additionally, women may approach problem-solving differently than men, often considering a wider range of perspectives and seeking input from others before making decisions. Men may be more inclined to rely on their own expertise and problem solving skills when making decisions.

Although these differences in managerial approaches between women and men are not always universal and can vary based on factors such as an individual’s personality, work experience, and cultural background, it is still important to recognize and understand them. Doing so can be beneficial in creating a diverse and effective team. By working together, female and male managers can offer different perspectives to a task, problem, or decision-making situation, resulting in more well-informed decisions compared to having only one gender represented in the management team.

A diverse management team: enhancing group cooperation
Numerous studies have investigated how the gender makeup of a group or team impacts its performance. For instance, research by Bear and Woolley (2013) suggests that the presence of women in a group significantly enhances group cooperation, primarily because of the benefits of group processes. However, the topic is complex and not all research findings align. Chen and Houser (2019) conducted a comprehensive study that examines both sides of the debate. Their research shows that homogeneous groups sometimes outperform heterogeneous groups, while in other situations, the opposite is true.

The impact of team composition on successful collaboration and organizational culture
Throughout my career, I have encountered numerous groups and management teams. Successful collaboration and teamwork are influenced by various factors, such as professional expertise, management style, the work environment, economic conditions, and more. In my opinion, teams that are more diverse are better equipped to identify a broader range of issues and perspectives that may not arise in a homogeneous group. Moreover, it is important to note that the composition of a management team, including its professional backgrounds, gender, and management style, serves as a model for other teams in the organization and continuously shapes the organizational culture.

In conclusion, promoting gender diversity and inclusivity in the workplace is crucial for companies’ success. At Medres, we have experienced the benefits of having a gender-diverse leadership team and are committed to promoting gender diversity and inclusivity in all aspects of our business. We believe that diverse teams, including gender diversity, create a culture of collaboration and inclusivity that ultimately drives business success.