Anyone out there still think there’s no difference in the way men and women behave in business? Well, think again.
Besides the obvious arguments over the differences between men and women, there’s even physiological research to prove the existence of gender-based management styles.
So, which sex is better at building a company?
“The right answer is both,” says economist Paul Zak at the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California. Zak investigates the hormonal basis of decision-making, tracking how people perform after they’ve been infused with male and female hormones such as testosterone, oxytocin and estrogens.
His findings: “Women tend to connect better to people and to multitask better. Men tend to be better at a single-minded focus and top-down motivations.”
Other studies show that although male brains are about 10 percent larger than female brains, women have more nerve cells in the corpus callosum, or nerve fibers that link the hemispheres. So women tend to be faster at transferring data between the left (computational and verbal) and the right (intuitive and visual) brain. Men usually are stronger on left-brain skills.
The result: Men really don’t often need to ask for directions. Women, besides being multitaskers, are more intuitive — that is, they’re swift at interpreting nonverbal, contextual cues.
Clearly, each sex does certain things better than the other. With that in mind, here are recognized masculine vs. feminine traits in three key areas of managing a business. Of course, no one is 100 percent male or female in style. But the more you can adopt the strengths of the opposite sex, the more likely your biz will benefit.
Leadership and team-building
Sex traits. “Men tend to use transactional styles of leadership, whereby they exchange rewards for results and lead through power and control,” reports Kimberly Eddleston, professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at Northeastern University in Boston. “Women are more relationship-focused than men,” she says. “Thus, they tend to use more democratic and participative leadership styles.”
Gender blender. If a power player dials it down, he can gain deeper trust, greater initiative and, perhaps most important, a climate that facilitates thinking outside the box. That’s because men’s command-and-control method usually causes staff and stakeholders to worry more about making mistakes than about growing as a business.
But women, says Eddleston, “need to be careful not to spend too much time on relationship matters at the expense of business issues.” All too often, women who rely on relationships to motivate are uncomfortable about imposing exacting performance standards. By clearing that hurdle, women can gain greater efficiencies.
Goals and risk-taking
Sex traits. “Women tend to value security to a greater degree than men do,” says Debra Burrell, a certified Mars-Venus psychotherapist in New York. “They’re more risk-averse and often wait for ‘permission’ before they venture into unknown territory. Women are conditioned to wait to receive, rather than to go out and take it.”
By contrast, men view business as a competition. Success flows from big hits, and “money is the primary yardstick,” says marketer Cathy Ottaviano, who runs What She Thinks, an agency based in Providence, Rhode Island, that advises clients on targeting women.
As a result, men prepare for bigger risks. “Men tend to sprint toward an imaginary finish line that they hope will net them a big reward,” says Ottaviano. “They focus on ‘winning’ and cashing out.”
Gender blender. Obviously, playing it safe can work both for and against a business owner. But women’s tendency to avoid risk means they often lack the capital that could bring their business to scale. Wisely, men usually craft exit strategies early on and then embrace the risks to get there.
Leveraging those traits to buffer each other could yield the best of both worlds, as Thomas McClintock has learned. Based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, McClintock runs NSI Partners, a technology consultancy, with his wife and another partner.
His wife initially did the bookkeeping, but realized that the business needed a CFO. “Things have been running more smoothly ever since,” says McClintock, who’s in charge of business development. “My role is to be more visionary and even optimistic. But she grounds me with a by-the-numbers assessment of what we can and can't afford.”
Communication and seeking outside advice
Sex traits. “Women business owners are skilled at building relationships that are caring and based on really listening and responding,” says Kathleen Burns Kingsbury at KBK Wealth Connection in Easton, Massachusetts, a coaching service that advises financial services pros about how to communicate effectively with clients about money issues.
Women are better listeners. Men typically prefer to provide answers rather than ask questions. As a result, men often offer solutions without fully grasping the problem or understanding exactly what prospects and customers want.
On the flip side, “Women are more reluctant to invest in consultants and outside help for their businesses than men are,” says Kingsbury. “Men tend to see the value of investing in coaching, consulting and administrative help more readily.”
Gender blender. Clearly, women need to banish their inner superwoman. They really can’t do it all. They need to realize that you can make more money by investing in professional expertise that your business is lacking, whether it’s marketing, financial strategy or information technology. Men likely would benefit from occasionally leaning back. They ought to enter meetings prepared to ask questions and learn.
Ultimately, “Men in business can learn from women that critical to the bottom line is how people are treated and that care is a power word and power action,” says psychotherapist Birute Regine, author of “Iron Butterflies: Women Transforming Themselves and the World.” “Women in business can learn from men that dreaming big is good, but everything doesn't have to be perfect to move forward with your dream.”
Remember: Being equal doesn’t mean being the same.
*Joanna L. Krotz writes about small-businessmarketing and management issues. She is the co-author of the "Microsoft Small Business Kit" and runs Muse2Muse Productions, a New York City-based custom content provider.
Learn more with two studies:
"The role of gender identity in explaining sex differences in business owners' career satisfier preferences"
by Kimberly A. Eddleston, Gary N. Powell : Téléchargement JBV- with Gary
"The paradox of the contented female business owner"
by Gary N. Powell, Kimberly A. Eddleston : Téléchargement JVB - paradox