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Gender Intelligent Leadership Research

YSC has partnered with the 30% Club to carry out original research that helps organisations in “Cracking the Code” on what constitutes gender intelligence.  The aim of this research was to explore the biographical, behavioural and psychological differences that lie behind men’s and women’s career progression, with a view to developing a more gender-intelligent approach to managing the executive talent pipeline.

YSC collected and analysed data from multiple sources including an open online survey, 360 feedback commentary, and qualitative 1:1 interviews This allowed us to validate data across multiple sources to ensure rigorous and robust insights.


How we collected the data:

The survey was distributed widely via YSC’s online platform and through the 30% Club’s participating organisations.  YSC received responses from 4,608 participants in 109 organisations, across 11 industry sectors.

What we asked:

The survey investigated three types of variables: Firstly, career-contextual variables such as individuals’ sense of past, current and unfulfilled ambition; personal and professional definitions of success; the level of support provided by employing organisations; the subjective value of 12 different career enablers; and reasons behind initiating or deferring a career transition.  Secondly, demographic career variables such as the number of career moves and promotions, career longevity and seniority level. Finally, individual demographic variables such as age, personal status (marriage, children, etc.), work location and industry sector.

What we analysed: 

  • We investigated descriptive statistics (including frequencies and averages) in order to explore high-level themes.
  • We explored the similarities and differences between genders at each level of seniority in the talent pipeline using statistical techniques (analysis of variance, ANOVA).
  • In order to identify the main predictors of success for both men and women, we applied models of regression.

The findings presented in the report are statistically significant. When testing hypotheses, our analysis was conservative in order to maintain robustness for uneven sample sizes were noteworthy.

360 data

How we collected the data: 

We took an anonymised random sample of 360 feedback commentary from YSC’s database of 360 feedback data.  We matched the numbers of leaders (recipients of the feedback) from each gender – 260 men and 260 women from 13 large corporate organisations.

What we analysed: 

We analysed descriptions of individuals’ strengths and development areas, as provided by feedback participants. We separated descriptions provided to individuals by colleagues (such as line managers, peers and direct reports) from self-reported descriptions.

To analyse these data, we created a coding frame that identified 28 categories of leadership behaviour against which to compare men and women. The coding frame was compiled and verified by three independent YSC researchers. 

To establish the coding frame: A sample of 300 comments were analysed independently by three YSC researchers to generate a draft coding framework. Using this framework, a further sample of 550 comments was analysed by three reviewers to establish inter-rater consistency. The coding frame was then revised to increase rigour. Using the final coding frame, we conducted a full analysis of 10, 615 comments. This resulted in the creation of 28 categories of leadership behaviour.

Using the 28 categories, we calculated frequencies of comments for both men and women, and corresponding proportions based on the total number of coded comments. To investigate whether significant differences existed, we used Chi-square tests. These identified statistically significant differences between men and women. 

A sub-sample of commentary was further analysed to determine the difference between self and manager commentary for both men and women. Proportional differences were calculated for each coding category.


How we collected the data:

Qualitative interviews were conducted with 89 individuals (including 5 males) from 19 organisations connected with the 30% Club.  Convenience sampling was used to arrange interviews with a wide range of leaders at all levels in the talent pipeline from diverse organisations across 7 sectors.

What we asked:

Semi-structured interview schedules were designed following a literature review of current gender research. The development of research questions intended to improve understanding of the psychological and behavioural differences between men and women and how these differences affect corporate leadership. The interview questions aimed to address three broad areas:

  1. How do women (and men) define success & what makes them successful in organisations?
  2. How do organisations help women (and men) to become successful leaders?
  3. What could organisations do differently to help more women succeed in the future?

What we analysed:

Interviews were conducted in person or via conference call. All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed for analysis. Anonymised transcripts were imported into Nvivo software for thematic analysis by two researchers. Emergent themes were coded and synthesised with other research streams.

Contact Details:

For Survey Queries:
Naira Musallam - naira.musallam@ysc.com

For 360 feedback Queries:
Aoife Kilduff - aoife.kilduff@ysc.com

For Interview Queries:
Meghan Craig - meghan.craig@ysc.com


Further information on the research conducted by KPMG can be found here.

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