Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Women and Competition

A new study, written about by the NYTimes' John Tierney, shows that women are less competitive than men - even in tasks they're great at - and therefore shy away from taking opportunities/jobs to move up the corporate ladder:

You can argue that this difference is due to social influences, although I suspect it's largely innate, a byproduct of evolution and testosterone. Whatever the cause, it helps explain why men set up the traditional corporate ladder as one continual winner-take-all competition - and why that structure no longer makes sense.

Now that so many employees (and more than half of young college graduates) are women, running a business like a tournament alienates some of the most talented workers and potential executives. It also induces competition in situations where cooperation makes more sense.

The result is not good for the bottom line, as demonstrated by a study from the Catalyst research
organization showing that large companies yield better returns to stockholders if they have more women in senior management. A friend of mine, a businessman who buys companies, told me one of the first things he looks at is the gender of the boss.

"The companies run by women are much more likely to survive," he said. "The typical guy who starts a company is a competitive, charismatic leader - he's always the firm's top salesman - but if he leaves he takes his loyal followers with him and the company goes downhill. Women C.E.O.'s know how to hire good salespeople and create a healthy culture within the company. Plus they
don't spend 20 percent of their time in strip clubs."

Still, for all the executive talents that women have, for all the changes that are happening in the
corporate world, there will always be some jobs that women, on average, will not want as badly as men do. Some of the best-paying jobs require crazed competition and the willingness to risk big losses - going broke, never seeing your family and friends, dying young.