In the Age of AI, Is Business More Suited to Female Leaders?

female leaders

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already liberating us from the most tedious of tasks, like legal document analysis and streamlining farming processes. With more nut-and-bolt jobs being taken over, what are the essential skills needed to do business? Who are the people we should be cultivating for leadership in the AI era?

University College London Professor of Learner-Centred Design Rose Luckin says “There are no AI systems that have emotional intelligence; there are AI systems that can fake emotional intelligence, but they aren’t actually emotionally intelligent”.

Okay, so no touchy-feely robots…yet.  The operational system of how things are done is already changing, but that also includes how people will relate to each other on a social and emotional level.

Computers already check hundreds of standardized tests for schools, universities, and dozens of different organizations. It then stands to reason that a teacher’s position will become obsolete with smarter computing systems.  However it only highlights the definition of what a teacher does is changing. Computers will be able to give useful feedback, grade papers, and perhaps give tailored learning to students. Where does that leave teachers?

There will be a different nature of interaction between students and teachers, just as in other fields. Teachers will be able to focus more on facilitating the learning experience, rather than spending time on grading homework. Students possess a wealth of information at their fingertips. They need a teacher, a guide, to frame an approach and ask critical questions. Likewise, the nature of how business relationships are made, cultivated, and navigated will shift. Those who possess a knack for relationship-building or excel in emotional intelligence may be those facilitating systemic change in an AI-driven workplace.

Cue the women.

Research conducted by the Hay Group division of Korn Ferry (NYSE: KFY) reveals women outperform men on nearly all emotional intelligence measures.

The study did not lack size or diversity: it utilized data from 55,000 professionals from 90 countries. In 11 out of 12 categories, women did better than men. The one exception was “emotional control”, where no difference between genders was detected.

A few of the categories may sound familiar to those looking for performance indicators: adaptability (where women scored in the 54th percentile, while men in the 48th), coaching and mentoring (women: 57, men: 46), and organizational awareness (women: 56, men: 46).

The Hay Group concluded “Regardless of gender, our data shows that the most effective leaders within organizations are those who are able to demonstrate emotional and social intelligence.”

ai and female leadership

Women may have an advantage in the era of automation.

Practically speaking, boards and organizations should be seriously considering how they plan to leverage women’s innate emotional intelligence to remain competitive.

More women in leadership means an organization usually has higher levels of profitability. It’s crucial for businesses to redefine what the future demands of in a leader. Qualities such as active listening, empathy, and agility are at the top of list. These are qualities an AI simply cannot deliver. AI’s current strength is in automating tasks and optimizing decision making. But leaders who have deep understanding of how people work will be the ones shaping the direction in the world of work.

Does that mean women are better equipped to manage?

The workplace demands intuition and emotional intelligence, which may mean some women possess a competitive advantage. Though like any other skill, emotional intelligence can be developed to deliver high-performance management. Organizations need to invest in traditional “soft skills” training. Individuals can also take it upon themselves to hone the art of communicating, managing, and collaborating. Junior investigators at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York facilitate their own soft skills training. Using the online tool, “Lean In“, these investigators impart their career development. From individual researchers to multinationals, the rising of one system is shifting the focus onto another set of skills. Those who can leverage their human-human aptitude will become the linchpin interlacing the old, the new, and the future world of work.

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