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Female leaders are better employers than male counterparts - AUT study

25 May 2020

With New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern being hailed as something of an archetype of positive female leadership styles, researchers at two New Zealand universities set out to explore whether a person’s gender really makes a difference when it comes to good leadership.

AUT professor Jarrod Haar and Massey University David Brougham polled 625 New Zealanders to discover if there is a difference between female and male leadership styles from an employee's perspective. 

Overall, respondents say that a good leader is one that shows care and concern for workers. 

Employees who experienced good leadership at work had greater sense of wellbeing including higher life satisfaction and fewer feelings of job stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression.

The poll also indicated that a good leader who is female can help reduce employees’ experiences in terms of anxiety, depression, and burnout.

“The survey provides clear evidence that during the COVID-19 lockdown period, having a good leader is beneficial for your wellbeing; it is ‘extra beneficial’ if that leader is a woman,” researchers state.

“The results likely reflect that female leaders may have a different approach to leadership, with a tendency to be more focused on relationships, and more sensitive, attuned, and responsive to their staff. Thus, good leaders who are female are better able to allay their employees’ concerns and frustrations with work.”

This suggests that employees are able to achieve a greater sense of wellbeing that can lead to stronger productivity.

Researchers state that just over half of respondents (57.1%) were female and just over half of respondents (52.6%) identified their leaders as male. The average age of the employees was 40 years and they worked on average 36-40 hours/week.

According to UN Women statistics from June 2019, 11 women were serving as head of state and 12 as head of government.

As of January 2019, only 20.7% of government ministers in the UN were women; the five most commonly held portfolios by women ministers are social affairs; followed by family/children/youth/elderly/disabled; environment/natural resources/energy; employment/labour/vocational training; and trade/industry.

“There is established and growing evidence that women's leadership in political decision-making processes improves them. Women demonstrate political leadership by working across party lines through parliamentary women's caucuses - even in the most politically combative environments - and by championing issues of gender equality, such as the elimination of gender-based violence, parental leave and childcare, pensions, gender-equality laws and electoral reform.”

UN Women statistics also state that Rwanda has the highest number of women parliamentarians. Women won 61.3% of seats in the lower house.