I saw this article on my facebook wall today. It claims that women are better than men in leadership skills. This is the conclusion of researchers.

“The results indicate that, as regards personality, women are better suited for leadership than their male colleagues when it comes to clarity, innovation, support and targeted meticulousness,” according to the BI researchers. The survey also indicates that female leaders have a somewhat stronger tendency to worry. “Disregarding the worrying (emotional stability), it could be legitimate to ask whether women function better in a leadership role than their male colleagues,” according to Martinsen and Glasø.

Does this study give evidence that women are better leaders than men?

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    Another note regarding the study is that it was conducted on 2900 managers IN NORWAY. I suspect there may be cultural aspects to leadership that change the meaning of "good leader".
    – Microscone
    Jul 11, 2017 at 14:36
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    @Microscone Thats a good point. The questioner asked does the study "give evidence." Giving evidence is a lower bar than actually asking if the study's findings are true. Evidence that Norwegian women are better leaders than Norwegian men is evidence that women are better leaders than men; not robust convincing evidence, but evidence nonetheless. Jul 11, 2017 at 15:10
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    Based on the quotes provided in the question, their conclusions sound much weaker than "women are better leaders than men". It looks like it claims they are better suited in four specific qualities, and that it "may be legitimate to ask" the title question.
    – femtoRgon
    Jul 11, 2017 at 16:35
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    Isn't this rather circular? They say women are better leaders, but then they get to pick the criteria that define "better".
    – jamesqf
    Jul 12, 2017 at 5:41
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    It seems implicit in the question, but "women are better leaders than men" could mean a whole number of things. Many people will assume that means "naturally, inherantly better", others "better right now" or just "currently better equiped by society". Those are each separate claims (and the first is something almost impossible to weed out in sociological studies.)
    – 8DX
    Jul 12, 2017 at 13:09

1 Answer 1



This study gives evidence that women in Norway who are already managers might be better leaders than men based off 5 criteria. Right off the bat I see two issues that give me cause for concern.

"In Norway"
When dealing with something such as "what makes a good leader", every answer is going to be dependent upon who is being led. This study does give evidence that women in Norway might lead people in Norway better than men in Norway (the study didn't say if they used Norwegian people or just people in Norway). Obviously there are cultural differences that might change the results for other locations.

"who are already managers"
This is the big issue with this study that makes it questionable as to whether the is any evidence in this study about women in the general population or even the Norwegian population. By only looking at people who are already managers, this study is exposing itself to a large amount of survivorship bias. As a simple example imagine everyone gets a leadership "rating" between 1 and 10. 5 men have leadership rating of (8,7,5,3,2) while 5 women have leadership ratings of (10,7,3,1,1). If we only look at the top 2 for each category, we find that women are better leaders than men with an average leadership rating of 8.5 compared to the men's average of 7.5. But if we look at the entire population, the average for women is 4.4 while the average leadership rating is 5. While it's never as simple as this scenario, it's reasonable to expect the men and women in Norway who are managers were not selected randomly. Thus this survey is not an accurate representation of the population of Norway (let alone the whole world) and should not be applied as such.

Edit: All information taken from OP's source

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    I've heard (in the US) that women have to be better to get the same managerial job. If that is true in Norway this would be an expected result.
    – user36688
    Jul 11, 2017 at 16:27
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    @notstoreboughtdirt, that might be the case, but that would just further reinforce the fact that this survey is not a good indicator of the population. If more women who were good (but not great) leaders were included in the sample set, then you would expect the average leadership rating for women who are already managers to go down while the average for men would either hold steady or go up (on account of the least skilled men being replaced by more capable women)
    – A Bailey
    Jul 11, 2017 at 16:42
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    @fredsbend, the study did (I presume) include a pool of men. It presented itself as "More than 2900 leaders provided complete responses to the personality measurements. Of these, more than 900 were women, more than 900 were senior management and nearly 900 came from the public sector." It's true the the study could have been all women and the previous quote would still be accurate. I feel safe presuming that the bulk of responses came from men.
    – A Bailey
    Jul 11, 2017 at 17:37
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    One other problem - based off 5 criteria does not mean better leader. It just means they were measured as better in 5 criteria that can not be measured objectively. The definition of leadership though is not defined as those 5 criteria, nor does it have some such of a formal definition. Jul 12, 2017 at 2:03
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    Is this answer referring to the original study? If so, please link the study and cite the appropriate passages to sustain your answer.
    – Sklivvz
    Jul 12, 2017 at 11:07

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