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Emotional Intelligence

New Research: Women Consistently Outperform Men in EQ

Women topped men in 11 of 12 emotional intelligence measures in a new study.

A new study has found that women outperform men on nearly all emotional intelligence measures.

What are the implications for leadership?

First, let’s look at the data. The research, conducted by the Korn Ferry Hay Group, used data from 55,000 professionals in 90 countries. Their key finding? In 11 of 12 emotional intelligence competencies women outperformed men.

Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The only category in which women didn’t receive the better scores was “emotional self-control,” where no gender differences were found.

In numerous other categories important for management success, however, women did score higher. A few key examples:

Inspirational Leadership: Women scored in 54th percentile, men in 47th percentile.

Coaching and Mentoring: Women scored in 57th percentile, men in 46th percentile.

Organizational Awareness: Women scored in 56th percentile, men in 46th percentile.

Adaptability: Women scored in 54th percentile, men in 48th percentile.

Does this data suggest that, in the aggregate, women are better suited for management than men are? Of course, this is a delicate, emotionally charged question.

When I asked that question of the study’s authors, the response was, “Regardless of gender, our data shows that the most effective leaders within organizations are those who are able to demonstrate emotional and social intelligence. Whether remaining calm during times of turbulence, inspiring and building team consensus, or serving as an empathetic mentor and coach to nurture the next generation of professionals, leaders who tap into their social and emotional intelligence competencies make for highly effective managers.”

OK, I get it. The sponsors want insightful research, not a gender firestorm. Fair enough. But to follow their logic, if the most effective leaders are those who demonstrate “emotional and social intelligence,” well, women clearly more often exhibited such intelligence on this particular large survey.

No Dog In The Fight

So how does all of this data strike me, based on my own career and management experiences? As I recently wrote in another Forbes piece on a similar topic (more about that below), over four decades I’ve had and observed great female leaders and awful female leaders, and I’ve had and observed great male leaders and awful male leaders.

I’ve been managed by women who were brilliant and exemplary, and I’ve been managed by women whom I’d trust about as much as I would a timber rattler.

In short, I have no dog in this fight—no preconceived notion of how this question should be answered. However (and this is an important however), within the last year I’ve come across three very different, but very large and substantive studies that each in their own way came to pretty similar conclusions:

• A Gallup study showing that women managers consistently outscored men in engaging their employees.

• A Peterson Institute study showing that increased women in leadership roles was linked to increased profitability.

• And now this Korn Ferry study showing that women are basically beating the pants off men (sorry, poor choice of words there) in emotional intelligence, which is often viewed as a reasonable proxy for leadership effectiveness.

I don’t want to take this too far, but it does begin to feel like a pattern emerging.

All I’ll say for now is I’ll be interested to continue to review more thoughtful, substantive research further exploring gender-related performance in the management world. Keep ‘em coming.

This article first appeared at

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Victor is author of The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World.

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