The Power of Women over Men

The Evolution of Empathy and Women’s Precarious Leadership Appointments

John G. Vongas and Raghid Al Hajj

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Abstract

Glass cliffs describe situations in which women are promoted to executive roles in declining organizations. To explain them, some authors suggest that people tend to “think crisis-think female.” However, the root cause of this association remains elusive. Using several subfields of evolutionary theory, we argue that biology and culture have shaped the perception of women as being more empathic than men and, consequently, as capable of quelling certain crises. Some crises are more intense than others and, whereas some brew within organizations, others originate from the external environment. We therefore propose that women will be selected to lead whenever a crisis is minimal to moderate and stems primarily from within the organization. Men, on the other hand, will be chosen as 

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Women and Leadership: From Glass Ceilings to Glass Cliffs

Today, more than ever before, women who pierce the glass ceiling are joining the ranks of executive leadership once considered the sole province of men. Despite this progress, few of them hold top positions in government, business, law, and medicine (Anderson and Court, 2012). A global study on the percentage of board seats occupied by women in the largest companies found that women held 19.2% of seats in the US (S&P 500) and 20.8% in Canada (S&P/TSX 60) (Catalyst, 2015). In Europe and Asia-Pacific, respectfully, their participation ranged from 7% in Portugal (PSI-20) to 35.5% in Norway (OBX Index), and from 3.1% in Japan (TOPIX Core 30) to 19.2% in Australia (S&P/ASX 200). Demand for gender equality in boardrooms is surging, and efforts requesting diversity through lobbies and quotas have peaked (Catalyst, 2014). For example, in Canada, a 

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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4641904/

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