I hasten to reassure my husband, three sons and many male friends that he focus wasn’t on male incompetence; it was an inquiry into why incompetent men are more likely to be promoted into top levels of management than competent women. The opening paragraphs really tell the story.
There are three popular explanations for the clear under-representation of women in management, namely: (1) they are not capable; (2) they are not interested; (3) they are both interested and capable but unable to break the glass-ceiling: an invisible career barrier, based on prejudiced stereotypes, that prevents women from accessing the ranks of power. Conservatives and chauvinists tend to endorse the first; liberals and feminists prefer the third; and those somewhere in the middle are usually drawn to the second. But what if they all missed the big picture?
In my view, the main reason for the uneven management sex ratio is our inability to discern between confidence and competence. That is, because we (people in general) commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence, we are fooled into believing that men are better leaders than women. In other words, when it comes to leadership, the only advantage that men have over women (e.g., from Argentina to Norway and the USA to Japan) is the fact that manifestations of hubris — often masked as charisma or charm — are commonly mistaken for leadership potential, and that these occur much more frequently in men than in women.
A few other gems from the article’s recitation of research results:
This is consistent with the finding that leaderless groups have a natural tendency to elect self-centered, overconfident and narcissistic individuals as leaders, and that these personality characteristics are not equally common in men and women….
Our normative data, which includes thousands of managers from across all industry sectors and 40 countries, shows that men are consistently more arrogant, manipulative and risk-prone than women.
The paradoxical implication is that the same psychological characteristics that enable male managers to rise to the top of the corporate or political ladder are actually responsible for their downfall. In other words, what it takes to get the job is not just different from, but also the reverse of, what it takes to do the job well. As a result, too many incompetent people are promoted to management jobs, and promoted over more competent people.
Um..calling Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump…
There is much, much more, and it’s all well worth the read….Nothing like having your darkest suspicions confirmed by researchers at Harvard!