We often hear that women have higher emotional intelligence. How does this affect their ability to take on leadership roles? Sherry Bevan delves into five elements that make up emotional intelligence and the various studies of how men and women score in this area. She explains how this affects women’s professional advantage and expertise, their effort to climb the career ladder, and their levels of success in their chosen fields.
Emotional Intelligence: Does It Affect The Gender Pay Gap?
In this episode, I’m going to be exploring the role of emotional intelligence in the gender pay gap. I work as a leadership consultant partner with technology companies to help them develop and retain their female talent so they close the gender pay gap. Thank you so much for joining me. I’d love you to come back next episode and to make that easier, you just need to subscribe to the show.
As we’re all starting to make our way back into the office after the summer, I’m hearing companies every day making big announcements about their future work model and announcing how much remote or working from home will be allowed going forward. It’s very much introducing this concept of the hybrid work model. Some companies seem to be very flexibly flexible, whereas others are definitely not. That’s exactly what I predicted back in June 2021, when I started to organize my executive round table on the impact of big high working on the gender pay gap in the technology sector.
With more of us now working from home and continuing to work from home in the future, it’s going to be even more challenging to maintain visibility at work. Indeed, I was working with a one-to-one client before this episode, talking about how she can start to maintain and build on the visibility because in her organization, they’re going to carry on working from home for the foreseeable future. Maybe challenging to maintain visibility isn’t quite the right word, but as individuals, we need to be more proactive at how we manage our presence in the office so that we do stay visible and that we do stay front of mind when it comes to interesting projects and promotions.
That is exactly why I’m going to bring together a small group of HR leaders from other technology companies. So far, I’ve had confirmations from organizations such as Sky, Microsoft and Sage. I’m bringing these people together to share their insights, experiences and learnings on how the hybrid work model will affect the gender pay gap. If you’d like to get involved in the executive round table on Tuesday, the 5th of October 2021, please do reach out to me and let’s get you booked on because I’ve only got a couple of spaces left.
The higher up the career ladder you are, the more emotional intelligence makes a difference in how you succeed at work.
Let’s get into the show. In this episode, I would like to explore the role emotional intelligence plays in the gender pay gap. It’s widely believed that developing high emotional intelligence, sometimes you might see this referred to as EI or EQ, that it’s incredibly important to have a long and successful career. What we know is that those employees with high levels of emotional intelligence, they’re able to build strong working relationships and manage difficult situations more effectively.
It’s also said that developing your emotional intelligence will improve your ability to cope with pressure, your ability to build trust, to negotiate, to influence without authority, to navigate those workplace politics, and we all have those. To take risks, but to take small risks while avoiding reckless ones and to handle the myriad of curveballs that get thrown at us and to handle those curve balls with resilience. When we talk about emotional intelligence, what exactly do we mean?
I go back to the psychologist, Daniel Goleman. He identified five elements that make up emotional intelligence and these are self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. Let’s take a bit more of a look at each of those five elements. The first three, self-awareness, self-regulation, and motivation, are often described as personal competencies because they determine how we manage ourselves. Whereas the last two, empathy and social skills, are often referred to as social competencies. In other words, they determine how we handle relationships and the social structure around us.
Let’s start with self-awareness then. That means being honest with yourself about your own strengths and weaknesses, and being aware of your own feelings. Having that accurate self-assessment of those feelings, your strengths and having self-confidence. When we look at self-regulation, that means you’re not ruled by your feelings. You’re still able to make considered decisions despite your emotions, despite how you might be feeling at the time, but you’re still able to make decisions effectively.
Self-regulation includes things such as self-control, trustworthiness, conscientiousness and adaptability. When we look at the third personal competency, that’s motivation. Motivation refers to being up for a challenge, happy to work for that long-term success, so you’re able to set those long-term goals and then work towards them by demonstrating commitment, taking initiative and being optimistic. Moving on to the two social competencies then, let’s start with empathy.
Empathy is being able to understand situations from another person’s perspective and then being aware of that individual’s feelings, needs, and concerns, but at the same time, empathy is also about leveraging diversity and political awareness. First and foremost, it’s about being able to see things from somebody else’s point of view, even if you don’t necessarily agree with the feelings that they have or the needs and concerns they have. It’s being able to see it from that person’s point of view. Finally, social skills.
When we talk about somebody who’s got high social skills, it’s somebody who’s easy to talk to, somebody who works well as part of a team. They’re able to diffuse disputes, influence and they communicate well. They’re very comfortable with collaboration. They can manage conflict, and they have good leadership skills generally as well. People who understand and work well with their own emotions, but also other’s emotions and feelings, are the people we describe as having high emotional intelligence. Because of those skills, they tend to be successful at work because they get the best out of every situation.
Women are more effectively using the emotional and social competencies correlated with effective leadership and management.
They’re good people to have around. Daniel Goleman is the author of Social Intelligence and also the best-seller, Emotional Intelligence. I highly recommend those two books if you want to find out more about emotional Intelligence. Daniel Goleman believes that the more senior a person is, the more emotional intelligence matters. In other words, the higher up the career ladder you are, then the more that this emotional intelligence and those skills make a difference in how you succeed at work.
He also believes that organizations that learn to operate in emotionally intelligent ways are the companies that will remain dynamic and competitive even in a challenging market. It’s high emotional intelligence rather than technical or cognitive skills. That is what makes the best leaders stand out from the mediocre leaders. From what we know of the differences between how men and women tend to behave and communicate, I started out exploring this episode and doing some research because I wondered if that meant that women who often are seen as better at having a more collaborative style of leadership, of having empathy and great communication skills, do women have more emotional intelligence?
If the answer is yes, why aren’t more women higher up the leadership ladder? That was my starting point. I want you to understand, generally, recognize that women tend to have more emotional intelligence. If that’s the case and emotional intelligence is an indicator of the best leaders, why aren’t there more women higher up the career ladder? It seems the answer is yes and no. Often, people equate emotional intelligence with empathy.
As we’ve seen, empathy is being able to see and understand another person’s feelings, needs, and concerns. Being able to put yourself in that person’s shoes, but empathy is not the only thing that matters when it comes to emotional intelligence. We also know that women often have more complex social relationships. Women tend to be more relationship-focused than men, which plays into the social skills of emotional intelligence.
What’s interesting is there was some research conducted back in 2016 specifically on emotional intelligence by the Korn Ferry Hay Group. They use data from 55,000 professionals across 90 countries using the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory, sometimes written down as ESCI. It’s developed and co-owned by Richard Boyatzis, Daniel Goleman, and Korn Ferry themselves.
In this research, what was noticed is that women scored higher on all of the competencies except emotional self-control, where there was no gender difference found between men and women. In all of the other competencies that are important for success at work and all of the other emotional intelligence competencies I’m specifically talking about, women scored higher. This means that women are more effectively using the emotional and social competencies correlated with effective leadership and management.
One interesting comment that I noticed from the research is, “Leaders with strong emotional intelligence create conditions that inspire team members to stay and contribute to the organization long-term. Conversely, leaders with low emotional intelligence have greater potential to drive team members away from the organization.” We’ve all seen that. People leave leaders, not jobs. If you’ve got a leader with strong emotional intelligence who inspires loyalty, you’re more likely to stay. Whereas if it’s somebody who doesn’t have those social skills, who doesn’t have that empathy, you’re more likely to leave more quickly.
A study by the global management consultancy Hay Group, analyzed leadership styles around the world and their impact on organizational performance. Ruth Malloy, who was the firm’s head of leadership and talent at the time, examined the results. This showed that leadership style has a big impact on commercial success. What she found is that when you only look at the best leaders in the top 10% of business performance, there are no gender differences in emotional intelligence.
The men are as good as the women, and the women are as good as the man across the board. That’s when you’re looking at the best leaders in the top 10% of business performance, with no gender differences. This research also showed that high levels of emotional intelligence are even more critical in matrix work environments, where individuals are required to lead by influence rather than lead through direct authority. That’s something worth noting in our ever-global world where we often have teams based in 2 or 3 different countries or where we’re managing a matrix team. It’s those levels of emotional intelligence are even more critical in those types of environments.
In conclusion, does emotional intelligence have a role to play in changing the gender pay gap? From what I’ve read, it seems that not, although women tend to score higher in emotional intelligence. When you look at the top leaders and the top companies, they don’t appear to be any differences in emotional intelligence. There was that research that showed that the men are as good as the women and the women are as good as the men across the board when it comes to the top leaders.
Women are more relationship-focused than men, which plays into the social skills of emotional intelligence.
There’s no doubt that developing and building your emotional intelligence, is a sensible strategy. It’s a valuable strategy in order for you as an individual to make progress in your career and as HR leaders for you to provide the tools and the training and the workshops and the awareness to allow your talent to make progress in their careers. From the research and the studies that I’ve looked at to research for this episode, emotional intelligence on its own is not the deciding factor in determining your female talent pipeline and it’s not the deciding factor in whether you’re any nearer to closing the gender pay gap.
I wonder, women tend to have high emotional intelligence, and yet that gender pay gap still exists. What if women didn’t have higher emotional intelligence? Does that mean that the gender pay gap would be even wider? That’s a question I can’t answer, but I’ve enjoyed exploring the role of emotional intelligence in the gender pay gap in this episode. I hope this has stimulated your thoughts, too and I’d love to hear your ideas.
If you’d like to explore any of the ideas discussed, please do reach out and book a call with me. I offer exploratory calls and that you can ask any questions you have about the work that I do with technology companies on attracting, developing and retaining your female talent so that you start to close that gender pay gap. Email me at Sherry@SherryBevan.co.uk to book your call.
If you do want to book one of those last two spaces on the executive round table on Tuesday, the 5th of October 2021, reach out quickly because I’d hate for you to miss out on your opportunity to discuss the impact of hybrid working on the gender pay gap with your peers from other technology companies. Thank you so much for reading. I’ve enjoyed exploring and researching, and talking about the role of emotional intelligence in changing the gender pay gap. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and gained some valuable insights, and don’t forget if you want to find out more about me and my work, visit SherryBevan.co.uk. Thanks for reading.
- Daniel Goleman
- Social Intelligence
- Emotional Intelligence
- Korn Ferry Hay Group – Korn Ferry study published in 2016 ‘Women Outperform Men in 11 of 12 Key Emotional Intelligence Competencies’
- Hay Group – Korn Ferry Hay Group research on The Power of Emotional Intelligence