A client bristled when a male colleague described her as a perfectly ‘competent woman’. Hardly the most glowing of recommendations, but it turns out statistically – he was right. In an effort to unpick assumptions we make about male and female leaders, research published recently in the Journal of Applied Psychology looked at 95 separate previous studies and found no overall gender difference in the perceived effectiveness of leaders.
However, when they looked at who was making the judgement they found a significant difference. According to self-reports, men rated themselves more favourably than women rated themselves. However, when the judgement was in the eyes of others, women were perceived as more competent than their male colleagues. So men’s self-confidence was tops, but women were viewed as more competent by everyone around them. Female Breadwinners wonders how much further we’d get if 360 feedback was valued more than self-reports – which are clearly prone to unwarranted exaggeration and gender bias.