Pardon Me, Your Pipeline is Leaking… and Three Reasons to Get It Fixed

March 14, 2018

More than ever organizations need strong individuals in key leadership positions. Great leaders help their organization maximize productivity, achieve business goals, and prepare for the future. Yet it is interesting to note that even though women comprise more than half of the workforce, they remain underrepresented in top positions. Vik Malhotra, a senior partner at McKinsey and Co., said, “For women, the corporate talent pipeline is leaky and blocked.”

In this article, we present three profound reasons why organizations need to repair their leaky talent pipelines and take advantage of this largely untapped and unrecognized resource for leadership—women.

1. Women leaders are highly effective.

In analyzing a dataset of over 60,000 leaders, we determined that objectively, women outperform men in 13 of the 16 most differentiating leadership competencies. In fact, they outperformed their male counterparts in overall effectiveness with every rater group, i.e. peers, direct reports, manager. The largest effectiveness ratings gap occurred in feedback from the leaders’ managers—on average, women outperformed men by almost five percent! The data is clear that ability is not the issue. Women can, and often do, perform well in leadership positions.

2. Women tend to seek ongoing opportunities for self-development.

Most women choose to continue to learn and develop as their careers progress, resulting in higher overall effectiveness. We found that early in their careers there is no significant difference between men and women’s overall leadership effectiveness. However, as their careers progressed, men’s average scores declined significantly more than women’s. The takeaway is not about men versus women, but rather the impact that ongoing development and continuous improvement can have on leaders’ overall effectiveness, and that women are more inclined to those activities.

3. Organizations benefit more from a mixed gender workplace.

Studies have shown that mixed-gender teams are more productive and creative. The difference between an all-male or all-female office to one that was evenly split was as much as a 41 percent increase in revenue. Greater diversity meant a broader spread of experience, a deeper collective knowledge, and a greater encouragement of new ideas, which helped the team perform more effectively. (Workplace diversity can help the bottom line, MIT 2014.)

Studies have also shown that having women in leadership positions created three times the probability that other women would be placed in fast-track opportunities. (Getting to Equal 2018, Accenture.) Diversity cultivated diversity, which generates organizational results.


The answer is quite clear—any leader can be extraordinary. While one gender is not inherently better than another, organizations will benefit greatly by putting emphasis on fixing leaky talent pipelines through identifying high-potential women and providing them with more opportunities to positively impact the organization in leadership roles.

—Dr. Jack Zenger

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