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Yet, even with statistically higher IQs, female executives still hampered by “Imposter Syndrome” and lower self confidence than male counterparts


MONTREAL, Quebec — March 8, 2017 — In connection with International Women’s Day, SuccessFinder, a talent assessment and career success prediction company, announced the findings of its CEO-level research comparing leadership competencies between male and female executives.

Male Female CEOsThe research compares nearly 200 female and male CEO’s and top executives across behavioral dimensions associated with high performance leadership: problem solving style, work habits, motivation, self-awareness, human relations, coping strategies, lifestyle priorities and vocational incentives.

“As a behavioural researcher, I wanted to know if women really come up short in the competencies that make great leaders, or if it is more an issue of perception versus reality that could be holding them back,” said Dr. Larry Cash, founder of SuccessFinder, who led this research. “What I found is that it is a case of mistaken perception and significantly lower self confidence on the part of female leaders.”

The Imposter Syndrome was coined by Georgia State academics in 1978 to describe high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. While both men and women can suffer from discomfort that they don’t have the skills or experience for the role they are in, in general men do a better job to ‘fake it ‘til you make it.’

The Leadership Competency Research

SuccessFinder conducted, collected and compared behavioural assessments on 97 female CEO’s and Vice Presidents against 89 male CEO counterparts.

Results from the detailed assessments show no statistically relevant differences between the male and female executives across most of the key leadership dimensions including:

  • Stamina — able to work at a fast, prolonged pace
  • Innovation —recognizes and delivers creative, imaginative solutions
  • Decisiveness — prefers to be the final decision maker
  • Work ethic — satisfied to work at 100% effort
  • Family — recognizes importance an active family life
  • Intuition — able to operate with few intangible facts
  • Wealth — motivated to seek personal financial wealth
  • Self sufficiency— independent; doesn’t require reliance on others
  • Power — seeks strong influencing control over others
  • Political acumen — uses politically appropriate judgment.

But, what the research does identify are two areas of statistically relevant — and telling — gaps between the sexes in “book smarts” and “self smarts”:

  • Book Smarts: Women executives have (on average) 10% higher IQs than male leaders.
  • Self Smarts: Women executives have approximately 10-15% lower self assessment (inner belief systems) than male leaders:
    • 15% lower self respect (holding oneself in high regard)
    • 10% lower self confidence (faith in oneself to succeed)
    • 10% lower self fulfillment (belief in ability to overcome failure)
    • 10% lower self realization (willingness to make life style sacrifices to succeed)

So, What’s Keeping Women Out of the Corner Office and the Boardroom?

The net: women who make it to the top, have the skills, smarts, experience, and the key leadership performance behaviours to succeed. But that success exacts a far greater emotional price for them than for their male counterparts.

The question is not can women succeed at the highest executive levels, but rather do they want to?

“At SuccessFinder, we’re not only about identifying what’s holding women back from the C-suite but we’re also about helping companies take meaningful action to lessen the gap that continues to exist between the percentage of male executives and female executives in the top leadership roles.” says Susan Van Klink, SVP and General Manager of SuccessFinder.

What Businesses Can Do to Build Women’s Potential in the Workplace

Companies can play a role in addressing and improving women’s confidence—and success—in the workplace:

  1. Identify women with high executive talent earlier in their managerial career using statistically valid and proven means of doing so;
  2. Provide them with targeted development that enhances their self-esteem, inner confidence, and optimism about their ability to succeed at the executive level; and
  3. Develop more options for work/life flexibility. There are highly competent women who clearly have executive potential but many are opting out because of the perceived family and lifestyle sacrifice required.

For more information about this research or to learn more about the work Dr. Cash and the SuccessFinder team is doing in the area of female leadership assessment, analytics, and coaching, visit or

About SuccessFinder

SuccessFinder is a talent assessment and career success prediction company, proven at more than 75 global and mid-sized organizations including: Aldo, Hatch, Maple Leaf Foods, McGill University, McKesson Canada, Morrison Hershfield, New Brunswick Power, Sanimax, Sun Life Financial, SSQ Insurance, and Yamana Gold. Its robust cloud-based SuccessFinder solution is used to predict — with 85% accuracy — the “behavioral DNA” connection between people’s behavioral traits and their likelihood to succeed across more than 500 unique roles. Don’t hire for skills and hope for behavior: map the traits that matter with SuccessFinder.


Media Contact:

Didi D’Errico