Your brilliance won’t necessarily make your group smart; women executives leave jobs moreBy Tali Arbel, AP
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
What makes a group smart; executive turnover
GROUP INTELLIGENCE: Being the smartest guy in the room doesn’t necessarily mean your team is going to be the strongest.
In a recent study, researchers found that having super-smart group members did not have a significant effect on how well the group did on brainstorming ideas, solving word games and math problems or completing small projects.
Instead, groups did better when they had members with higher levels of “social sensitivity” — empathy, or “how well group members perceive each other’s emotions,” said study author Christopher Chabris, a psychology professor at New York’s Union College. And the people likeliest to display such a trait were women. A group’s “collective intelligence,” or its ability to do well on a broad range of tasks, often lined up with how many women were in the group.
The best-performing groups also had members that cooperated well. Members of such groups let each other talk more often — individuals didn’t try to hog the conversation.
The researchers tested 669 people, recruited in Boston and Pittsburgh. The study split participants into groups of two to five people. Results was published Sept. 30 in an online issue of Science.
WOMEN EXECS LEAVING: Women executives, who were vastly outnumbered by their male counterparts over a nine-year period, were also more likely to lose or leave their jobs, according to a recent study.
In the study, 5.5 percent of the executives of Standard & Poor’s 1,500 companies were women during a nine-year period. Of those, 7.2 percent left their jobs, whether for personal reasons or because they were fired. Only 3.8 percent of the male executives left their positions during the same period.
Women were more likely than men to leave their jobs voluntarily and involuntarily. Women may choose to leave more frequently because of other responsibilities, such as a family, said Oregon State professor John Becker-Blease.
Becker-Blease said the research suggested that as a board of directors gains more male members, it is more likely to fire women than men. Still, there may be other factors in play other than gender discrimination that cause women to be fired more often, he said — possibly the female executives didn’t have as much experience, or their bosses perceived them as less capable than potential male executives.
The higher rate of dismissal “might not actually even be about gender. It might just be some other important factor, such as experience, that is related to gender,” he said.
The research tracked 17,644 total executives from 1996-2004. That’s well before the financial crisis hit, triggering the biggest wave of job losses since World War II. The recession might not have had much effect on the trend found in the data, said Becker-Blease — the shorter 2001 recession did not have a significant effect.
Women workers in general, however, have had a better chance than men of keeping their jobs during the recession and its aftermath. According to government statistics, the male work force has shrunk by 5.9 percent since the downturn began in December 2007, while the number of women workers fell 3.4 percent.
The study is in the October issue of the Economic Inquiry academic journal.