“If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”
I spent this summer in France and had many conversations with friends around our business idea. While explaining what we were trying to achieve, I was very keen to mention that our mission was not to fight for women’s rights but to take an approach where we help recognize that men and women are different.
It is common knowledge that “men do not listen and women cannot read maps” . Our brains just do not function in the same way. And as long as scientists have not found a way for men to carry children, I would say our bodies work pretty differently too. There are of course always exceptions, but when a male friend is actually a good listener, I often hear you say he has a “strong female side”!
So why, when we all know that we think, function, live and love differently, are we expected to work the same way?
Women can multi-task, listen, support each other and according to a UK survey tend to have more warmth, sensitivity and apprehension then men. As per the same survey, men have more emotional stability, dominance, rule-consciousness and vigilance.
There are currently a lot of discussions around how to support women’s access to leadership positions. The common assumption is that women are the victim of gender discrimination which I have experienced myself throughout my career. But how much of that discrimination comes from lack of understanding and comprehension versus a conscious intend to put women down?
Sheryl Sandberg in her book “Lean in”, mentions how successful female leaders are usually disliked in the corporate world. They usually demonstrate male attributes which are not expected from a woman. The question I have is why do women need to have male attributes to succeed in their career? Is the business world so dominated by men that there is only way to climb the ladder, and that is to behave like a man?
I realize that everyone is different and that some women have more male qualities which help them succeed in today’s business environment. I also believe there is a way for women who are less dominant, vocal or outwardly confident to succeed because of other leadership qualities we have long forgotten to recognize in our current male dominated world. I believe we can change business cultures so male and female leaders can learn to recognize those attributes and reward them as they are equally important to the success of a team, a division or the entire organization.
A woman who might come across as being shy or more reserved than a man, but who has the ability to generate trust, connect people together and be a role model when it comes to work ethics will be able to lead a team very effectively. She will be able to inspire others and generate cohesion within her team. A woman with less of an ego will have the ability to recognize talents, develop them and help them rise without feeling threatened. There is also a high probability if that same woman is recognized and her qualities acknowledged, that she will become more confident and therefore more vocal.
A woman who can juggle work, family, friends, sport, and hobbies will be a huge asset to your company, as she will certainly be able to exercise the same skills within her role, if you let her.
I believe there is a way for each company to create a culture where gender differences are understood, respected and embraced. Businesses taking that step should be able to generate higher profitability. After all, it has been proven that happiness increases productivity!