Written by Caroline Fairchild
Tadashi Yanai, the 70-year-old chief executive officer of the retail company that owns Uniqlo, is close to retiring. As he looks to find a successor, gender is top of mind.
“The job is more suitable for a woman,” Yanai told Fortune last week. “They are persevering, detailed oriented and have an aesthetic sense.”
Less than 5% of executive titles at publicly traded firms in Japan are held by women. Here in the U.S., a similarly small figure emerges when you look at CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. So to have someone of Yanai’s status in the business world publicly say he wants a woman to succeed him is a big deal. But is there any data to support his belief? I dug into skills on LinkedIn to find out.
Some 56% of LinkedIn members skilled in leadership — a key trait for a CEO in any field — are male, according to an analysis conducted in February of LinkedIn Talent Insights data. Yet if you look into other skills that underlie the attention to detail and perseverance that Yanai claims are necessary to be successful, women exceed men. There are more women on LinkedIn skilled in creativity skills (64%), time management (59%), oral communication (53%) and analytical reasoning (51%). It’s also worth noting that when it comes to apparel skills, a whopping 69% of members on LinkedIn with retail experience are female.
Yanai’s belief is also backed by how women present themselves once on the job. Women are three times more likely than men to say that they are organized and four times more likely to say they are collaborative, according to a report out last month by LinkedIn.
Of course, Yanai is not right or wrong that a woman would be a better leader for Uniqlo than a man. There are plenty of great, and terrible, business leaders of both sexes. But it’s encouraging to see leaders speaking out about the strengths women can bring to the C-Suite. As we’ve discussed before in Working Together, public perception has evolved when it comes to recognizing female intelligence, but very few people believe women are as capable to lead organizations.
My take is that it’s not a matter of which gender is more qualified to lead. But if the senior management ranks across industries are ever going to become more diverse, we need to see, and be open to many different types of leadership.
Who’s Pushing Us Forward
Redefining innovative. Last week, Forbes released its annual list of America’s Most Innovative Leaders featuring just one woman… and 99 men. Forbes’ methodology highly prioritized leaders of companies valued at $10 billion or more, but hundreds of LinkedIn members argued that this is a relatively old fashioned way to think about innovation. Some, like author Claire Diaz-Ortiz, even put together a list of their own to recognize a more diverse group of leaders.
“I’m appreciative of those who hold us accountable to ensure that we’re working to eliminate pervasive barriers rather than compound them-thank you,” Forbes EVP Moira Forbes wrote on Twitter. “This is an opportunity to change things for the better & ensure that our mistakes lead to lasting progress.”
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