Ethnically Diverse Countries Fare Better With Female Leaders, Statistically Speaking


Want another great reason for more women to take up positions of leadership? A new study shows that countries which are ethnically diverse suffer from slow economic growth except where there is a female leader.

Nichols Pierce and Susan Perkins from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Illinois have released findings showing that gender does matter when it comes to country leadership.

They drew inspiration from another Kellogg research paper, and spent 3 years observing male and female national leaders in 139 countries over the past fifty-five years, while also measuring gross domestic product (GDP) performance alongside ethnic fractionalization (EF) levels.

“In Liberia, one of the most ethnically fractionalized countries we surveyed, the predicted GDP growth was 6.15% under a female leader and 0.69% if the leader was male,” Pearce says.

“In countries with a lot of internal conflict, oftentimes people are looking for signals that the person in charge is going to be collaborative and not dictatorial or self-interested,” Pearce says. “Women’s gender role is symbolic of collaboration, that they’re going to empower marginalized voices.”

“If we look across industries where female CEOs have had a higher impact than males, oftentimes it is in situations of ambiguity and internal conflict where change or transformation is necessary. On average, women don’t outperform men as CEOs, but they tend to in these situations.”


“By this logic, a company like Yahoo—struggling to redefine itself to its own employees and shareholders, not just to its customers or competitors—was wise to install Marissa Mayer as CEO,” they observe.

“The message is not, ‘If you’re a man, you shouldn’t be leading a diverse country going through internal conflict,’” says Pearce. “The idea is that any leader in such a situation should perhaps be more intentional about leading inclusively and collaboratively. It just so happens that these characteristics tend to be embodied in or associated with female leadership styles.”

This is clearly happening around the world, with Paris recently electing Anne Hidalgo as their first ever female mayor in early April 2014, and Catherine Samba-Panza being elected as the first female president for the country  Central African Republic in Africa.

Closer to home here in the U.S, a study like this is good reason to believe that Hillary Clinton might run in 2016 for the presidency, but no official word just yet. Countries like America, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and others are built and thrive on the foundation of multiculturalism. All of these countries except the US has had a female leader at the highest level of government.

“The ‘Us versus Them’ leadership mentality is running its course, and collaborative leadership styles are more valued than they were before,” says the Kellogg Institute study, urging both men and women to see the value in throwing off gender inhibitors and embracing the idea that moving forward depends on more women being part of the conversation.



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