The Missing 33%

Season #1

In an earlier musing on The Missing 33%, I gave a brief summary of my TED Talk. On this I want to dive a little further into the concept of The Missing 33%.

Discovering The Missing 33%

I discovered it based on research published in 2000. Which was kicked off by a BusinessWeek title that said, "As leaders, women rule new studies find that female managers outshine their male counterparts on almost every measure."

 Now because I had my three part definition of leadership:

Leadership is using the greatness in you to achieve and sustain extraordinary outcomes by engaging the greatness in ot,hers

I was able to take the elements in that research. where women were perceived by managers as outperforming their male counterparts and other elements where men were perceived as outperforming their women counterparts, and was able to bucket them into the three elements of leadership.

What I discovered is that:

  • Women were seen as outshining their male counterparts on everything that had to do with engaging the greatness in others.
  • Men and women were seen as relatively equal on tapping  personal greatness, meaning strengths and attributes, but
  • Men were seen as outshining women on every single cited competency that had to do with achieving and sustaining extraordinary outcomes.

And those competencies broke into three areas:

  1. Business acumen
  2. Strategic acumen and
  3. Financial acumen.

Now, you may ask, what about getting results? This is the most bizarre of all the elements that are measured in assessments because in some assessments, managers rate women is outperforming men. On others they rate men as outperforming women. And because getting results is absolutely the bare minimum in order to be considered a viable candidate for advancement, I just wiped it out because it was more or less, null.

So this is when I coined the phrase, "The Missing 33%" and started talking with women about the importance of business, strategic and financial acumen.

Updated Research

Fast forward. to 2023 and a woman on LinkedIn asked me, "How have things changed? Have they changed at all? I would think that this has gotten so much better since your original research and maybe women don't need this message any more."

So again, I dove into all published research that I could find where there were comparisons on the leadership strengths of women and men. And things actually have not changed. I wrote a LinkedIn article about this. I was sad and a little angry about it.

In one way it's gotten worse in that in all these studies, women were now seen as outperforming men on personal greatness. So we are seen as terrific people, great employees who work hard and are curious and we're seen as. excellent at creating inclusive teams, engaging team members, et cetera. But men are still seen as outperforming us on business acumen, strategic acumen, and financial acumen.

Polish the Diamond or Strengthen its Setting?

One implication of this is that if you take most organizations' leadership development programs, what they will do for you is help you polish the diamond instead of strengthening the setting.

Most organizations' leadership development programs are based on research in the 1970s on successful male executives who were seen as being different because they successfully engaged others and they were able to leverage their unique strengths and attributes.

And so these programs are full of important and valuable, but incomplete, skill building based on how to give and receive feedback, how to lead teams and other skills that have to do with engaging the greatness in others. And they often also let you know what Myers-Brigg type you are or what your strengths are.

All useful, but for women incomplete.

This is why finding additional resources to help you understand what is meant by and develop and demonstrate The Missing 33%. Your business, strategic and financial acumen is important, and that's what we're here for.

This is another morning musing by Susan Colantuono coming to you on a beautiful morning on the shores of Puerto Rico. 

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Podcast produced and original theme music by Megan Tuck