Women in Tech Leadership; Strategy with High EQ

by Lizette Roman-Johnston
March 19, 2024

As a young woman starting her career, I am hyper-aware of the lack of gender representation in tech and the modest levels of diversity in tech altogether. Of course, there has been a rise in tech diversity initiatives, more women in STEM, and more women in tech leadership positions. But a closer look at the numbers makes me wonder if the only shot someone like me has of achieving top-level leadership status is through one of the more “emotional” roles like HR.

[Check out this edition of The PTP Report on why diversity and inclusion are important to hiring]

Emotional intelligence is traditionally viewed as a “feminine” trait. But the association between women and emotional intelligence (“EQ” if you’re hip) is more than just a societal perception. Many studies have suggested a significant link between women and various strengths related to emotional intelligence. Still, despite the EQ women bring to the table, and the demonstrated effectiveness of EQ in the workplace, women in IT are still significantly underrepresented, especially in leadership positions.

 

Women’s emotional intelligence strengths

Women are, indeed, recognized for their emotional intelligence, as they should be. Plenty of research supports women’s strengths in areas that determine emotional intelligence.

Collaboration: A 2010 study by Woolley et al. found that the presence of women in a group greatly improved its collective intelligence, which positively correlated with the average social sensitivity of group members and equality in conversational turn-taking.

Trust and fairness: According to a 2022 study by Joshi and Diekman, the mere presence of a female leader led participants to anticipate fairer treatment; this tendency was discovered across female and male–dominated industries.

Allyship: McKinsey & Company (2021) found that 38% of women in senior positions mentored or sponsored one or more women of color, compared to 26% of men. They also found that women are twice as likely to spend time on equity, inclusion, and diversity than men.

Emotional support: McKinsey also found that 31% of women provide emotional support compared to 19% of male managers. And up to 61% of women leaders check on the team’s overall well-being compared to 54% of men in the same positions.

 

Senior Leadership Roles by Women

 

Yet despite women’s demonstrated strengths in these areas, they still represent only 25% of C-Suite positions in tech. Of course, overall gender bias is the culprit, but looking even deeper, I wonder: Does tech value emotional intelligence enough?

The “promising” female representation in tech leadership roles

We can begin to answer this question by looking at which C-Suite positions women are most likely to hold. (Hint: It’s the ones most known for their emotional involvement.)

The senior leadership roles held by women in Fortune 500 companies include: CHRO (70%), chief communication officer (64%), and chief inclusion and diversity officer (76%). Meanwhile, women hold few of the higher-pa