Watching women in a changing world

Watching the news on women aiming for the boardroom is fascinating. There is a lot of progress in one sense – Chairmen of major organisations are meeting a new cohort of potential senior women at last. Congratulations to Elin Hurvenes of Professional Boards Forum who has successfully held her first event in the Uk, where 20 top Chairmen met many senior women on May 5th and discused how the boardroom can become more balanced. We still have a long way to go however this is a fabulous start.

When top men start saying keynote statements such as Roger Carr, Chairman, Centrica plc and Cadbury plc “In my experience women add considerable value to the boardroom discussion. They help generate a more team oriented and thoughtful atmosphere that produces better board work. For that simple reason I want both genders represented on any board I chair.” …then we will start a quiet evolution towards creating a new economic order together.

My passion and that of my colleagues is create more magical conversations where men and women not only get to hear what each has to say, but they also listen and take on board the significance of this new merger of gender.

HOWEVER In all M&As the greatest test is to merge cultures successfully – and many mergers fail because due care and attention is not made to the differences between the cultures. The same is happening here with men and women as often not enough care and attention is being made to understanding each culture and oft times it is said ‘men and women are not different’ (Fawcett Society). Men and Women are different and thank goodness! and women are different to other women, men differenet to men, generation over generation, differences are all around. The choice we have is to value each other as individuals and bring both separate and combined ‘femaleness’ and ‘maleness’ in as a business benefit.

Just to focus here on women, enlightened women know that to be healthy in the boardroom, they need to be themselves, not someone they think they need to be… and not having to act and behave like a man. Even if women naturally have a ‘masculine-minded’ brain and a preference for action, directness, and traits often associated with men, or ‘feminine-minded’ women who bring natural intuition and softer people skills to the party, all women have inherent biological characteristics that add amazing benefits to business. Women are emotionally wired to nurture relationships, to multi-task, to communciate and build client rapport and customer service easily to name a few. Women love business and in general do things differently to men…but they don’t in general ‘sell’ themselves up the career ladder the way men do.

This is not about men or women being better or worse than each other – just different! More women than ever are setting up businesses today, even in a fragile and chaotic market! We’re enjoy business, often we don’t enjoy major corporate life, maybe because we’re not in ownership of the blueprint that has been designed by men for years and years!

Every women, any type, from tough tomboy type to the soft-power gentle woman, all can expand their business and interpersonal skills into a masculine boardroom bringing the required balance that business needs today. May be women don’t want to work on the male playing field anymore but don’t know how to change things.

Take Roger Carr’s view – he knows having a mixed board makes a different atmosphere and there is more evidence that mixed boards run more successful businesses overall in profits and sustainable growth. I see it over and over through our sessions with women over the last 6 months that women tell us that they want to be more tuned to their natural skills, their gender qualities, and their personal motivators and to go higher – but struggle to maintain their senior level confidence against a backdrop of beign a minority and rise up through the more male-run organisations.

Maybe we need to take a lateral view on this whole issue of women in a changing world… and change the groundrules rather than keep struggling on an old blueprint that is now out of date!!

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