New Study Finds Female Executives More Resilient Than Male Executives

Mar 08, 2021

BEIJING, March 8, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- A new study conducted by the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business's Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior, Zhang Xiaomeng, reveals that top Chinese women executives show higher levels of psychological resilience during the pandemic compared to their male counterparts. At the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, Zhang undertook what turned out to be a year-long research project looking at the psychological resilience among top business leaders by surveying 8,800 Chinese executives on their level of anxiety and depression.

The results reflect her wider findings on leadership traits, which Zhang coined "H.E.R. Leadership." The study, based on the characteristics of 4,300 leaders in China, finds that there is a trend of homogeneity in leadership traits between women and men. However, female leaders showed 3 different attributes. Female leaders are more Holistic – comprehensive in balancing relations and tasks; Empathetic – caring for team harmony and interpersonal relationships; Resilient – more resilient and better at regulating stress. However, Zhang notes that these traits are "gender-label" free and that men as well as women can adopt them in their management style.

The results of Zhang's study are revealed on a CKGSB webinar, with support from Asia House, on International Women's Day. The event convenes female entrepreneurs, scholars, and business leaders globally to address the impact of Covid-19 on gender equality and best practices of Fortune 500 companies. Shinta Kamdani, owner and CEO of Sintesa Group, a 100-year old family business conglomerate in Indonesia, Charise Le, Chief Human Resources Officer and Executive Vice President of Schneider Electric, Fernando Vallina, Chairman of ExxonMobil China, and Su Cheng Harris-Simpson, Founder and CEO of SCHSAsia, discuss how to enhance women's prospects and leadership skills in the workplace, and how male allies can champion women's empowerment.

Women have made consistent gains in education attainment and the workplace in the last 50 years. However, men still outnumber women in high-ranking positions by large margins. Shinta Kamdani says, "In Indonesia, 47% make up the entry-level labor force; 20% go to middle management and only 5-6% of women end up in CEO positions. Even women who get the opportunity to be promoted feel it's better to stick to a lower-level position because of the work-life balance."

Charise Le, the first Chinese woman chief HR officer of a Fortune 500 company, says, "I don't think gender is the determining factor in leadership style. The differences we see are due to the differences in opportunity and lack of representation and underpinned by stereotypes."