Research data published by Harvard Business Review indicates women are thought to be more effective in 17 of the 19 competencies measured.


The HBR study followed up on previous research, which showed similar results. The current research analysed 360-degree reviews to determine perceived effectiveness amongst peers for 19 dimensions, identified as differentiators between excellent leaders and poor ones…

We recently updated that research, again looking at our database of 360-degree reviews in which we ask individuals to rate each leaders’ effectiveness overall and to judge how strong they are on specific competencies, and had similar findings: that women in leadership positions are perceived just as — if not more — competent as their male counterparts.

CapabilityWomen’s percentileMen’s percentile
Takes initiative55.648.2
Practices self-development54.849.6
Drives for results53.948.8
Displays high integrity and honesty54.049.1
Develops others54.149.8
Inspires and motivates others53.949.7
Bold leadership53.249.8
Builds relationships53.249.9
Champions change53.149.8
Establishes stretch goals52.649.7
Collaboration and teamwork52.650.2
Connects to the outside world51.650.3
Communicates powerfully and prolifically51.850.7
Solves problems and analyzes issues51.550.4
Leadership speed51.550.5
Technical or professional expertise50.151.1
Develops strategic perspective50.151.4

Source: Senger Folkman 2019, HBR

The report also highlights gender-differences in self-perception concerning leadership.

Source: HBR

Women tend not to rate themselves as capable leaders early in their careers, and the number increases steadily over time. The opposite goes for men, who tend to be initially over-confident in their leadership ability and decline as perception catches up with reality. Perhaps a classic sign of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Sources and further reading:

Research: Women Score Higher Than Men in Most Leadership Skills (HBR)