Despite the increasing visibility of women at the very top of the business world, from Sheryl Sandberg to Oprah, women continue to have to push hard to reach management and leadership roles in industries worldwide. While they're becoming more common, and we're a lot more comfortable with the idea of a female business leader than we were a few decades ago, pervasive institutional sexism and debilitating policies around childcare and maternity leave still keep qualified women away from top jobs. Despite these sexist attitudes towards leadership in business, there's new research to suggest that in "intuitive and spontaneous" women may actually make better bosses than men, especially in creative fields.
One of the most damaging things for women who want to be on top is society's idea of a boss in business: dominating, aggressive, confident — all characteristics that are typically assigned to men rather than women. And if women do exhibit them as bosses, they're punished. Studies have repeatedly shown that women in leadership positions are seen as "abrasive" and aggressive, rather than acceptably assertive, when doing exactly the same things as men, like raising their voice or interrupting. Women receive more pointedly negative feedback from male and female peers, and, as a vast collection of sociological science suggests, are penalized for exhibiting social behavior that's perceived as outside "feminine" norms — even though it's also seen as essential for being a good boss. It's a catch-22 for all women in positions of power, political and otherwise.
Beyond breaking down the "likeability" barrier, though, the business world in particular needs to redefine and expand what "being a boss" actually looks like, to incorporate shifting ideas about competence and good leadership. New evidence from the University of Vaasa in Finland shows that, for creative industries in particular, one kind of leader shows the most promise for leading an awesome company: intuitive, spontaneous women.