Do Women Make Better Leaders?

What's the Big Idea? 

While over 70 percent of women in the United States work outside of the home, compared with 36 percent in Brazil, and while US women marry, on average, a decade older than women in Latin America, the United States has never had a female president. Latin American countries, by contrast, have had five, beginning with Isabel Peron* in 1974. What's going on here? 

Mercedes Rosalba Aráoz Fernández is a Peruvian economist, professor, and politician, who served as who has served as Peru's minister of Foreign Commerce and Tourism, and as its Finance minister. In her opinion, there's a widespread belief among corruption-weary Latin Americans that women leaders are less corruptible than their male counterparts. Of course, says Fernández – and as any good student of Evita knows – this isn't always the case. 

But Fernández has observed that women leaders, herself included, tend to collaborate more openly and distribute power more liberally than males do. The not-very-surprising result, she says, is a more contented workforce or constituency, and better outcomes. 

What's the Significance? 

Fernández cites the example of the campaign she managed as Minister of Tourism for Macchu Picchu's inclusion among the seven wonders of the world. The government couldn't afford a huge publicity campaign to promote the vote. By appearing personally at schools, on tv shows, and at public events across the country, Fernández ignited a popular movement, turning the campaign into a national crusade. 

Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign's resounding success was in large part a result of a similarly grass roots, collaborative approach. Not only did the campaign's online microfinancing platform create the sense that anyone could own a piece of the "movement" – supporters were actually encouraged to organize mini-rallies at their homes and become splinter cells of the campaign office. 

Whether or not collaboration and distribution of power are typically feminine leadership traits, they're a wise approach in the era of social media, when cellphones empower the people to organize and respond to public events in real time and on a massive scale. What's more, transparency and crowdsourcing  – as opposed to shadowy autocracy – are likely to produce more stable, successful, and long-lasting organizations. 

Follow Jason Gots (@jgots) on Twitter

Image credit:

* Originally, erroneously read "Eva 'Evita' Peron," who actually died in 1952 and served as First Lady, not president of Argentina. Thanks to reader Eric for the correction. 

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less

Steven Pinker's 13 rules for writing better

The Harvard psychologist loves reading authors' rules for writing. Here are his own.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 21: Steven Pinker speaks onstage during OZY Fest 2018 at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park on July 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Ozy Media)
Personal Growth
  • Steven Pinker is many things: linguist, psychologist, optimist, Harvard professor, and author.
  • When it comes to writing, he's a student and a teacher.
  • Here's are his 13 rules for writing better, more simply, and more clearly.
Keep reading Show less

Want to age gracefully? A new study says live meaningfully

Thinking your life is worthwhile is correlated with a variety of positive outcomes.

Surprising Science
  • A new study finds that adults who feel their lives are meaningful have better health and life outcomes.
  • Adults who felt their lives were worthwhile tended to be more social and had healthier habits.
  • The findings could be used to help improve the health of older adults.
Keep reading Show less