They call them the ‘lionesses’. They’re the 11-strong English team taking the football world by storm. Last week they made history by reaching the last four of the World Cup for the first time ever. They’re plucky, skilled, resilient and successful. And they’re all women.
But it’s not just on the football pitch that women are outperforming men (our boys were knocked out in the group stage in their last Cup outing, lest we forget) – in the workplace they play a pretty mean game too. Just last year US professional services firm Rothstein Kass revealed hedge funds run by women performed better than their male rivals. The research, compiled by finance expert Meredith Jones, found that over the six years from the start of 2007, female financiers generated an average of 6% returns compared with a 1.1% loss at the HFRX Global Fund Index.
Jones has since written a book about the findings (Women of the Street: Why Female Money Managers Generate Higher Returns, published in April this year). In it she credits women’s talents as money managers with seven basic characteristics, including “out of the box thinking”, less overconfidence, and lower levels of testosterone, the hormone linked to reckless behaviour.
In the past she’s told the Daily Telegraph that women simply have “very different investment styles” to the average male fund manager. “For example, women tend to trade less and hold on to their positions for longer,” she said. “They are also less convicted by their own ideas and there the gap between expected and actual returns is smaller too.”
But it’s not just in the City that women are outstripping their male counterparts. “Women Make Better Doctors Than Men,” was a 2013 Time Magazine headline after a report released by the University of Montreal described how women were outperforming men on certain metrics of patient care. In a statement accompanying the findings, the report’s author explained: “Women had significantly higher scores in terms of compliance with practice guidelines. They were more likely than men to prescribe recommended medications and to plan required examinations.”
The cynics among you may claim that high-paid hedge fund managers and brainy medics aren’t really a fair representation of the world of work in general. So what about the other end of the scale? Can women compete with men when it comes to starting up a company from scratch, for example? Well, yes, actually, if stats mined from crowdfunding platform Kickstarter are anything to go by. A recent American study randomly selected 1,250 business proposals on the site that were petitioning for at least a $5,000 investment. The markets ranged from gaming and film to fashion and children’s book publishing. Overall, the study found that women are 13% more likely to meet their Kickstarter goals than men. In traditionally male-dominated areas, like technology, the results are even more striking, with 65% of projects founded by women reached their fundraising targets, compared with just 30% of ventures led by men.
Despite this, fundamental gender inequalities continue to plague the workplace. From low pay to poor representation on boards, women are still losing out on a fair deal. Maybe it’s time to move on from the raucous Spice Girls brand of 90s feminism to one rooted more securely in fact and figures. With a proven track record of success, ‘girl power’ must now become ‘goal power’, and not just on the turf tonight in Canada.