With the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign gearing up, the prospective candidates are engaged in a series of debates. Those debates invariably focus on the economy, and whenever the economy surfaces, there’s the always-interesting topic of gender in the workplace – in this case, the vast difference between men and women in leadership positions.

Less than 15% of the top five jobs at S&P 500 companies are held by women, yet that’s about three times as much as the pinnacle positions – just 4.8% of CEO positions at those firms are female.

Those numbers are shocking, especially in light of an independent study based on female- vs. male-run Fortune 1000 companies. In terms of return on investment, the stock price for firms run by women outperformed their male counterparts by nearly 300%. You read that correctly – companies headed by women are about three times more profitable than those led by men.

Perception vs. Reality

The general line of thinking of firms run by men and those headed by women falls in line with accepted truths about the differences between genders. Men are driven, take bold risks and are motivated by profit margins. Women are more understanding, avoid unnecessary conflict and care more about people than profits.

That’s true, but only up to a point. In reality, there are plenty of male CEOs who exhibit “female” leadership qualities, and many women who are known as tough, uncompromising bosses.

The science says that men and women think differently. But how those differences play out in corporate boardrooms doesn’t always align with perception. Reality is much harder to pin down. That’s because the interpretation of science actually shows that the differences aren’t all that great. They exist, absolutely. But how those thoughts translate to leadership skills is another matter altogether. Let’s examine how women-run businesses are different – some would even say better – than their male counterparts.

The Advantages of the “Female Way of Thinking”

Here are some key differences that distinguish female-style business leadership:

Slow and Steady Wins the Race.

Women CEOs typically start a business with less up-front capital than men. As a result, a careful and calculated management style is much more common with women-run businesses. This risk-adverse preference ends up infusing the entire corporate culture with a “what’s best for the team” mentality, as opposed to a purely profit-driven mindset.

Educational Excellence.

More women than men earn college degrees today, and this educational background translates into a well-rounded CEO. Superior academic performance doesn’t always translate into a successful boss, but it doesn’t hurt. Businesses led by women are more likely to enjoy a balanced background of real-life experiences and higher education credentials. And according to a recent study from the White House Council of Economic Advisers, “Recent research has shown that women can help drive innovation and better target female customers and employees.”

Emotional Intelligence.

A big reason for that 300% profit difference discussed earlier is something called “emotional intelligence.” Also called EQ, this trait involves communication skills, collaborative networking and other relationship-centered characteristics. Women CEOs have been shown to possess better overall EQ than male business leaders. During times of crisis, a steady and guiding hand is required. Female CEOs are generally oriented toward better relationships than pure business decisions. In the long run, this attribute seems to play a big role in better bottom-line performance.

Contentment + Appreciation = Successful Business Blueprint

Since less women aspire to be CEOs than men (23% of women, 32% of men) and face more obstacles if they DO decide to climb the corporate ladder, female CEOs are known for a better overall appreciation of their status than men. We’re not saying men don’t enjoy their spot at the top, but with fewer women bosses than men, businesses headed by women are more likely to embrace a healthy self-competition (“I made it, now I’ll prove it every day.”) than other firms.

These are just some of the differences between women and men in business leadership positions. The differences between businesses run by men and women aren’t always so cut and dry, but they are tangible. How about you? In your own career, have you noticed any variations in leadership style? Are there some definitive differences that have made a lasting impression? Let us know – your feedback is always appreciated!

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