Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Letter to WSJ: We have the Data to Prove Jack Welch is Wrong!

Dear Blog Readers 

 I thought you might find my email (below) to John Bussey of the Wall Street Journal of interest regarding his recent article titled:   “Women, Welch Clash at Forum”.    You can find the article at:    This article reported on a forum discussion about why so few women are making it to the C-Suite.  We have data that refutes Jack Welch’s position, so I thought I would share this information.   I hope you find this of interest.   (I can also send you the chart from the presentation mentioned below on request!)    

Thank you for your interest!  Nancy 

Dear John:

Thank you for your article about the class of Jack Welch and female executives at the recent Women in the Economy Forum.   I have data that proves Jack Welch is wrong.  Results and performance frequently do not chart the way to executive success for women.  While it is a no brainer that exceptional performance is essential – there are still too many blockers preventing women from aspiring to the C-Suite.  Many women outperform their male counterparts regularly, yet are bypassed for the best and most coveted positions. 

Alison Quirk of State Street Corp. was quoted “… we can do more to help people understand their unconscious biases.”    We have studied this very point of the biases versus performance.  What we found is that there is a real chasm between the performance behaviors of women and the related perceptions of those behaviors.  It is the perceptions, biases and stereotypes that hold droves of women back while perceptions and biases catapult men forward.

Our firm, CDR Assessment Group, Inc. measures the personality and motivational traits of leaders and executives.  By way of reference, Jared Sandberg a columnist for the WSJ took our assessments, had feedback, and wrote an article on March 10, 2004, titled “How I Survived Tests that Introduced Me to My Inner Executive.” In this, he reported on the accuracy he found with our assessments compared to others he researched for the article.

Interestingly, the overall leadership characteristics as measured by our CDR Leadership Character Assessment between male and women leaders are remarkably similar which means that both sexes are quite capable of leader posts at the highest levels. 

The only slight difference we found in comparing data was with the CDR Leadership Risk Assessment results showed some statistically significant differences.  What we found was that under pressure or conflict, women leaders tended to default to a “Worrier” mode while their male leader counterparts tended to exhibit traits as “Egotists, Upstagers & Rule Breakers.”  Bottom line, under adversity and conflict, the averages showed many women leaders dig in, over-analyze and re-review which moves them away from the pressure while the men leaders fight and stand their ground, albeit in forceful and overly aggressive ways.   

So, under duress and conflict, many of the women are not perceived as “fighters” or as courageous because they do not go into fight mode as frequently as the male leaders do.  This, obviously, has some impact on perceptions of who is most capable.

However, most stunning is that false perceptions and erroneous stereotypes hurt women leaders far more than men.  Below are two examples of what we found:

Example #1

Respondents say that women (85%), not men (5%), are the more EMOTIONAL sex (Pew Leadership Research Survey, Aug 25, 2008)

What the CDR Assessment profile data results says:

CDR Scale Title
Women Leaders
Averaged Score
Men Leaders
Averaged Scores
What does this mean?
        There are no significant differences between the “emotionality” of men and women. 
        How “emotionality” is expressed varies. 
        How “emotionality” is judged or perceived is frequently based on gender bias.
        For women, emotionality is often confused with Interpersonal Sensitivity or Nurturing/Caring and Relationship Building capability.
        Emotionality of male leaders is often associated with anger, impatience, etc. and is considered within accepted norms.  Secondly, men are more likely to hide “emotionality” better.


Example #2

Respondents rate women as more MANIPULATIVE than men by 52 to 26 percent.    (Pew Survey, 2008)
What the CDR Assessment profile data results says:

CDR Scale Title
Women Leaders
Averaged Score
Men Leaders
Averaged Scores
False Advocate   
Rule Breaker
What does this mean?
        False Advocate is higher for women leaders so there will be more inclination to complain behind the scenes; can manifest as the “martyr” or victim syndrome.
        Men leaders may manipulate or “jockey for position” in bolder ways due to Rule Breaking and Inquisitive scores
        However, the drastic 52 to 26% different rating in the Pew Survey is not supported by the CDR data and is perhaps exaggerated by biased perceptions.


 CDR Assessment Study:  Men Leaders N=120; Women Leaders N=111; samples of leaders from 26 Companies

We have more representative data supporting Ms. Quirk’s contention that the unconscious bias is holding women back far more than demonstrated performance or capability.   I agree, it is time to begin communicating and challenging how people think about shared traits of men and women.  I'd be glad to send you a chart from my presentation given at an ASTD and WBCS conferences titled:  “Risk Factors that Impact Women in Leadership” that illustrates the damaging, yet different perceptions that often stem from the same leadership risk behavior.  (available to blog readers too!)

Sorry to say, while Jack Welch has been a tremendously accomplished leader in many ways, he is missing the mark on this matter.  For aspiring women leaders, great performance alone won’t likely get you there. 

Again, many thanks for giving attention to this matter.

Sincerely yours,