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.