The age-old question, beautifully immortalized in Harry Belafonte’s song, -man smart, woman smarter’, seems to be making rounds in the business circle today.

The age-old question, beautifully immortalized in Harry Belafonte’s song, -man smart, woman smarter’, seems to be making rounds in the business circle today. Are women smarter and better leaders than men in the business world? Various studies, particularly one conducted by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, appeared in the Harvard Business Review blog to both confirm our age-old beliefs and surprise us with new findings on women as leaders.

The authors found from 7280 leaders that 64% of leaders are still men. The higher the level in the organization, the more men and fewer women. Stereotypes of women leaders excelling at nurturing competencies also held ground, as expected. The surprise came with women women being rated as better overall leaders than men. In this study, women outscored men in taking initiative and driving for results. Men outscored women only in developing strategic perspectives.

In spite of such findings, we see few women leaders. One of the main reasons is probably the worldwide discrimination against women. Moreover, women often feel they need to take extra initiative to prove their value to the organization.They feel their positions are not safe in their organizations. Ironically, it is this very quality that makes successful leaders, irrespective of gender.

Women leaders are also victims of prejudice from, sadly, fellow women. Women leaders are criticized for how they look, and the amount of work they do is often overlooked. Secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was criticized for her thick ankles while her speech and her ideas were less scrutinized. Women leaders, however, can be strong individuals who push the barrier all the time to lead well, to promote their business better and achieve success not only for themselves, but also for their organizations.

Books on women’s leadership:

Women Lead The Way

As a businesswoman, a government official, a non-profit leader and a nurse, Linda Tarr-Whelan encourages women to lead the way by bringing their passion to the power tables of the business world.

This book dispels myths about women as leaders and lays down rules to build self-confidence. Her women’s leadership principles are in sync with a woman’s natural instincts - collaboration, communication and consensus. Her research tells us that women need to be represented at only 30% at the top to make real change happen.

This book offers its readers women-led strategies for change and a set of practical tools to become powerful partners in the business world. If you are an aspiring woman leader, this book is your companion on the road to success.

When The Canary Stops Singing

Reminiscent of the warning canaries gave to miners of the unhealthy conditions underground, Pat Barrentine has fifteen women-entrepreneurs in this book as harbingers of essential business perspectives. All these women consultants, entrepreneurs and corporate executives offer provocative and practical essays have one focal message - the business world needs a more nurturing and humane environment and both male and female instincts are equally vital.

All these women leaders, in their essays, search for personal and spiritual freedom by seeking truth and a willingness to take risks. This collection of essays aims to arouse a sense of self-discovery. Control gives way to nurturing in these essays. This book is designed for women leaders who want to create a productive partnership between men and women, without making women subordinate to men. To be able to succeed in business, When The Canary Stops Singing decimates the myth that masculine and feminine perspectives are mutually exclusive.

The Female Vision

Sally Helgesen and Julie Johnson empower organizations seeking to leverage women’s best talents. The authors recognize, acknowledge and respect the fact that women have a perspective of their own, a lens that can and does work as their most powerful asset in the workplace.

The Female Vision is a strongly argued book in women’s leadership and it identifies three elements of the female vision that benefit the organization. First, the broad-spectrum of vision women possess enables more information flow into the organizations, thus providing clues about relationships, shifting markets and potential conflicts. Second, focus on the quality of daily, mundane experiences helps restore balance in a 24/7 workplace. How would an organization aimed at excellence achieve its goals if there were no stationery, no food and water to help work run smoothly? Abstract goals would remain mere ideas without ground reality efficiently managed to realize those dreams. Third, the female perspective of viewing work as a part of a greater social world makes worklife worth living. It motivates people by interacting at a profound and authentic level.

The female vision has recently begun to gain attention because its benefits are a perfect fit for team-based, service-oriented, interconnected global business environment that is slowly becoming the order of the business world. Creativity, strategic insight and the ability to engage and inspire are what The Female Vision bring to the readers and today’s business world. This book tells organizations what exactly they need to do to engage and support talented women so that the nurturing, caring, and all-encompassing business environment is created.

On Our Own Terms

A book on fifteen extraordinary women by four extraordinary women is On Our Own Terms. The authors use personal interviews and photographs from the lives of fifteen women CEOs and corporate presidents to show how the latter have led and succeeded in their lives by living on their own terms.

The authors rightfully observe a lack of information on women who are changing the business world. Women leaders, much appreciated and encouraged in their public lives, are mostly from the political and social spheres in the United States. This book on women’s leadership aims to fill the gap in the information. Fifteen women CEOs and corporate presidents reveal their struggles in breaking through the gender barrier in the “man’s” business world, while balancing personal and professional lives. On Our Own Terms brings forth the sacrifices these powerful business women had to make to achieve the top executive positions.

This book makes great reading because it narrates how each of these women made their own rules to climb to the top of the corporate world. Not one of them followed business school-taught rules and principles. Each of these women leaders harnessed their personal talents, family values and ethnic heritage to become successful business leaders.

This book, like The Female Vision, focuses on inherent female instincts that helped these women succeed as leaders. A heavy reliance on intuition, a willingness to take risks, a tendency to build consensus rather than dictate, and a desire to integrate their businesses into their lives are the traits that all these fifteen women leaders have used, time and again, to rule their businesses.

Not only does On Our Own Terms share the success stories of the women leaders, but it also provides the readers with advice on career planning, customer service, business growth, and managing work and family life, all provided by the fifteen women CEOs and corporate presidents.

This book is essential for women, especially because it narrates the struggles, sacrifices, challenges and triumphs of American women across different ethnicities, age groups, geographical region, and business experience.

The Feminine Quest for Success

This book on women leadership makes women stay “more feminine” than “more masculine” when they lead businesses. Many business women have had to be more masculine to lead businesses when they first started holding positions of authority in the business world.

Nancy Bancroft’s The Feminine Quest for Success describes the differences between men and women at the workplace and encourages women leaders to bring to the table the essential feminine qualities of greater flexibility and connection to make businesses succeed. Bancroft feels these feminine qualities are what the business environment needs today.

The book provides five success strategies women use to earn success in the business world. The Emulator assesses her business opportunities and points out that modeling aggressive male behavior is the route to success. The Trooper keeps her competent, focused and well-prepared. The Balancer keeps an eye on the scale to maintain parity between personal and business life. The Seeker makes her re-discover herself by staying away from the business world for a period of time. And last, the Integrator has aligned both avatars of herself; she is sure of who she is, as a woman and a business leader.

While the five strategies almost seem like preparing for war, the book sends out a strong and clear message - women can and should remain true to their feminine selves while enmeshed in the business world. The book is encouraging and uplifting, especially for women who think they have to don a different persona to be successful in the business world.