More proof that ageism and sexism do a company no favors: a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers has found that women over 55 tend to be the most qualified candidates to lead organizations through periods of transformational change.

PwC surveyed 6,000 European business professionals to find out who had the “capabilities, attributes, and mindsets” to solve what the researchers call “wicked problems”: those that “directly challenge business-as-usual thinking and even the business model itself.” Specifically, they were looking for people who see situations from multiple perspectives; move easily between the big picture and the details; demonstrate “passionate detachment”; skillfully employ positive language to inspire others; lead with vulnerability and courage; and use power wisely (emphasis ours).

 Who tends to be good at all of those things? You guessed it: older women! Only eight percent of all respondents fit the desired profile, but the largest proportion of leaders who did were women in the 55-and-older age group.

Jessica Leitch, a consultant on the study, suggested that the results should have employers rethinking their views on older female workers: “Historically, women over the age of 55 would not have been an area of focus,” she said, “but as the research suggests, this pool of talent might hold the key to transformation and in some cases, business survival.”

So, corporations: the next time you have an especially tricky business problem, you’ll do well to remember the words of Margaret Thatcher: “If you want something done, ask a woman.”


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