HomeLearning CenterWhy Women in Power Are Undermined – and How to Fight Back

Why Women in Power Are Undermined – and How to Fight Back

Originally published by Sophie Williams for Scroll.in

In 2017, the World Economic Forum looked at the impact of EQ, or emotional intelligence, in the workplace, and what they found was incredible. When they tested emotional intelligence alongside a set of 33 other workplace skills, they discovered that EQ was the “strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58 per cent of success in all types of jobs.” They found that 90 per cent of top performers scored highly in emotional intelligence, versus only 20 per cent of bottom performers, noting that, “You can be a top performer without emotional intelligence, but the chances are slim.”

Not only are professionally successful people likely to have a higher EQ, but there is also an incredibly strong relationship between the skill set and financial rewards, with the research finding that those workers with a high EQ make, on average, $29,000 more per year than their less emotionally intelligent counterparts. The link is so strong and direct that “every point increase in emotional intelligence adds $1,300 to an annual salary”, a finding that remained true for people in all industries, at all levels, in every region of the world. The researchers noted that they “haven’t yet been able to find a job in which performance and pay aren’t tied closely to emotional intelligence.”

I find this surprising because it’s so different from the words and characteristics we usually use to talk about success and leadership. Yet, as we know, when the Glass Cliff comes into play, when we’re in a risky or precarious position, these softer, more personable skills are those that we turn to female leaders to provide.

As we’ve seen, one of the reasons that businesses are more likely to bring in women in leadership positions during times of crisis is because of a belief that women have a greater abundance of soft skills and that those soft skills are good for re-engaging a team that has gone through a difficult patch – which the research I’ve just mentioned seems to endorse.

So what is the value of soft skills for leaders? And are there particular sets of soft skills that really do help during times of crisis?

It seems that, especially in times of great uncertainty and fast change, rather than wanting a leader to be cold, detached or authoritative, what people want most is to feel that their leader understands and is empathetic to the difficulty of the situation and the challenges their team is likely to face. In this instance, the value of transparency becomes particularly important and desirable.

When things have gone wrong – wrong wrong, big wrong – it’s easy for people at all levels to fall into survival mode, to keep their heads down, try not to rock the boat and hope that things will get better soon. Talking about things that are going wrong is difficult and can make us feel vulnerable, and so it might feel safer to adopt a “business as usual” approach, despite you and your team all knowing that, just beneath the surface, nothing is actually as calm as it seems. But it could be that there is a real value in transparency and authenticity at times like this.

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