Ambitious Much? Data Shows How Certain Words Are Used To Describe Male and Female Leaders

Ambitious Much? Data Shows How Certain Words Are Used To Describe Male and Female Leaders

In a world full of bias content, it should be no surprise that, depending on how a leader identifies, they can be described differently from their colleagues.

New data explored the difference between words used to describe those who identify as male and female leaders in performance evaluations. Using a a large-scale military dataset, the Harvard Business Review examined measures, including a list of 89 positive and negative leadership attributes, used to assess leader performance in the military.

The results may be shocking to some, but not to all.

In order to eliminate gender segregation and discrimination, the military has enforced equal employment opportunity policies, hierarchy organization by rank over social status characteristics, and total gender integration in all occupations. While no gender differences in objective measures – like grades, fitness scores, and class standing – were found, some other findings raised eyebrows.

According to the data, the most commonly used positive term to describe men was “analytical,” versus “compassionate” for women. On the negative scope, the common term used for men was “arrogant.” For women, it was “inept” – which by definition means “having or showing no skill.”

While both analytical and compassionate are words of endearment, some could argue that one may be more valuable from an organizational standpoint. Especially when it comes to women, who have been described with many words in the positive, but spun into a negative context.

Like the word “ambitious.” Let rapper Wale tell it, being an “ambitious girl” is something to live by. When it comes to commitment to a career, an article by Marie Claire said ambitious men are perceived as powerful, whereas ambitious women are seen as power-hungry. “If the ‘very ambitious’ turn out to also be ‘very exhausted,’ there may be limits to the value of the term as we know it,” Phenomenal Woman Action Campaign founder, Meena Harris said. Tennis legend, Serena Williams, put it another way – “If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labor of expanding our family.”