2021’s International Women’s Day theme is Choose to Challenge because, as their website states “a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change”. They are asking us all to choose to challenge and to help forge a gender equal world and to take action for equality.
At the same time as wondering if it will ever be possible to achieve an equal society be that in terms of gender or race, Porch shared a fascinating report they have put together looking at the personality insights and traits of world’s 100 most powerful women using the Forbes 2017 ranking to determine what it is that sets them apart. Before studying the Porch report based on the 2017 rankings, I looked at the Forbes 2020 rankings. Immediately my initial reaction was one of surprise.
Older Women & Visibility
We are frequently being fed news stories that older women are undervalued, yet the youngest women in Forbes 2020 top ten rankings is 56 (Kamala Harris and Melinda Gates). It seems that there is life and influence beyond the age of 50 after all. Given that in the UK the State retirement age is currently increasing and will be 68 by 2028, it is encouraging that they ARE visible and are in extremely high profile positions, demonstrating that anything IS possible if you want it enough. Sticking with the Forbes’ 2020 ranking, another observation struck me: five of the top ten women are involved in politics and policy, with another four working in finance and business (the missing one being Melinda Gates involved in philanthropy). All are involved in what is traditionally thought of as being male dominated fields.
Admittedly while the numbers of women involved in comparative terms is minute, the striking thing is that the positions these women hold are not senior management roles within a male dominated field: they are all at the absolute top of their professions. As we look for female role models to be visible, there can be fewer greater role models in terms of both female and age equality than those making up the top ten in the Forbes 2020 ranking.
The “Big Five”
The Porch report examining the 2017 Forbes ranking recognises that no two women are the same but using IBM’s Watson Personality Insights, they have analysed in considerable depth qualities shared by women and have come up with the “Big Five” average personality traits. Topping the list with a score of 95.8%, “Openness” (the extent to which a person is open to experiencing different activities) tops the list, followed by “Emotional Range” (the extent to which a person’s emotions are sensitive to the person’s environment)at 74.3% and “Conscientiousness” (the tendency to act in an organised or thoughtful way) at 73.5%.
Of course there are many facets that make up any individual’s personality but looking at the personality traits by industry, and politics in particular, given the number of women in the 2020 listing being involved in this field, it is interesting that according to the report, sympathy, intellect and liberalism are the top three traits with the top two being separated by just 0.1%.
Interestingly, the exact same three character traits feature come top for those working in media and entertainment industry with almost identical percentages. However I doubt that many would immediately cite one of Angela Merkel’s main personality traits as being sympathetic whereas it is perhaps more natural to think of Oprah Winfrey in this way. The deeper analysis of Angela Merkel’s personality traits is also revealing, especially when compared to former UK Prime Minister Theresa May in that they are very similar. Sadly Theresa May’s tenure at the top was not as long lasting as the German Chancellor’s.
According to an article in the New York Times Angela Merkel has spent years playing down what are considered to be the more feminine traits in favour of appearing to be tough and sensible (and some might even consider to be boring). Yet despite appearances, the analysis showed her to have a personality rich with openness, altruism and cautiousness and has resulted in her earning the Forbes’ accolade of “Most Powerful Woman in the World”.
If ever there was a woman who embodies challenging perspectives, Angela Merkel is one such woman.