What would the workplace look like if it were built for and by women?

7 Aug

Much has been said about women getting on in a man’s world – and often having to adopt more masculine behaviours and attitudes to survive and thrive in an environment that has been structured around a man’s way of doing things.

Of course, you can’t generalise about ‘male’ or ‘female’ leadership characteristics – and I’m not for one minute advocating all-women offices. However, I found this Delaware Online article on Why women find it hard to reach the top rung thought provoking. It asks what a company would look and feel like if it were built on women’s norms, rather than according to masculine norms.

Taking existing women-led companies, the article points to several patterns. It suggests that a company built for and by women would be more:

Nurturing: providing flexible policies around healthcare and retirement, for example.

Sensitive: not assuming (or saying) that a woman wouldn’t want a challenging job just because she had children, or might want them in the future.

Supportive: pointing to the face that men may get on in business through informal networks such as the golf course, to help create similarly supportive networking environments for women so they, too, can take advantage of opportunities when they arise.

Focused: In a different article on Reuters, In business, a woman’s place is in the boardroom, it looks at patterns of behaviour in Norway, where there are quotas requiring 40% of the boardroom to be female. As a result, evidence suggests that women – dubbed the ‘diamond skirts’ are more focused during boardroom discussions, having done their homework beforehand.

Direct: I’m not saying women don’t have egos – I’ve worked with plenty who do – but I’m inclined to agree that women aren’t afraid to ask direct or difficult questions, because they want straight answers, and don’t feel they have to put quite so much attention on protecting their  ego.

In the UK, major companies have signed up to the 30% Club, an initiative to ensure more diversity on the boardroom. Not just for the sake of it, but because they believe a balanced board is ‘key to driving profitable growth – and positively influences a company’s culture and the decision-making process’. It has already committed to an Action Beyond Words programme on the basis that if change is going to happen then it will take companies, government and headhunters to work to make it happen.

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