Readying Women to Respond to the Calling
The signposts are significant and the undercurrent is palpable.
First there was the news that 51% of the US workforce was now women. Then there were various studies that revealed the lopsidedness of the softer gender at the higher levels – to the tune of only 18% of leadership positions. So what, I thought. Perhaps men are better at all that business stuff (ouch). They love the hierarchy, the men’s clubs, and the competitiveness of a deal.
But then more findings: businesses can be more successful when the female influence is heeded. Aha. Now that got my attention.
A recent study by the National Council for Research on Women published findings of a seven year study in financial management which revealed that women fared better in investing monies than men, by almost double. Seems women are more methodical in making decisions, more conservative about higher risk situations, and spot trends more quickly, due to social awareness. We are also less likely to become aggressive in a tough situation because we are prone to cooperative results rather than asserting dominance over others. There was even speculation that the link between increased testosterone and willingness to take risks at times of pressure or loss could have been at play during the recent financial crisis.
When women are added to the equation, the business focus changes. After women gained the right to vote in 1920, issues began to swing toward more female-centric issues such as child welfare and health care. Women have a more holistic view of the world and put efforts into community cooperation and global awareness. Let’s face it. We do things differently. This can be a terrific coup for a business’ bottom line.
In the past, it was all too easy to see “different” as “wrong.” I have had my share of looking at a situation with fresh eyes, then looking around at the men rolling their eyes at my approach. What is she doing! Last week I walked into a very-empty sprinkler supply store, thinking I would be talked down to. [Happens sometimes in those hardware-like stores where only men roam.] Perhaps a man would have disassembled the broken part and brought it along. As if! Not wanting to fuss with the tools and the outdoor cold, I took a photo on my iPhone of a broken vacuum breaker. Once those two salesmen saw I how I wielded the iPhone, asked for a diagnosis, and gathered instructions for the repair, their posture toward me changed. I had a plan.
Too often women undervalue their resourcefulness because it may not be seen as “businesslike.” A female approach to laying groundwork for employee participation, assessing customer requirements, or defining corporate foresight is becoming more welcomed. Traditional approaches are not always hitting the mark – how ‘bout we try a different point-of-view?
What is the message to those of us in leadership positions? Call it a duty or call it an opportunity. If the time has not come yet, it is on the horizon. And I have felt the energy. In a recent teleseminar that featured moi as the guest speaker, I marketed the topic of women emerging into the leadership realm and improving skills. My host and I expected 200-300 attendees. At broadcast time, we had 508 enrolled. Within 48 hours, the audio of the seminar was downloaded over 1100 times. We were surprised – it seemed something was definitely happening with women in leadership. It reminded me of one of Gary Larson’s Far Side installment’s where a biting mosquito had hit an artery and he ballooned to the verge of exploding. His buddy yells “Pull out! Pull out! You’ve hit an artery!”
Stand back. Some of us are ready to donate the blood.