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towards a partnership of women and men

With one of the core values of ebbf being the creation of equal opportunities between women and men in all fields of endeavour we take the opportunity to offer you an excerpt from ebbf’s publication “Towards a partnership of women and men”. You can download the condensed version of this publication clicking here below a few extracts …

Forces at Work

There are several trends shaping a new and emerging paradigm of management or business model. These forces are profoundly changing the nature of work, and they are increasing opportunities for women to assume leadership roles in companies, professional firms and organizations of all kinds and sizes.

Societal trend to partnership. In several recent books and articles, the noted anthropologist Riane Eisler described a major societal transformation from a domination model characterized by male values toward a partnership model which draws upon and blends both male and female traits, values and practices. EBBF joins a growing number of other associations in building a convincing business case for this emerging partnership paradigm.

Globalization. The pervasive effects of the globalization need little explanation.

Intensity of competition.  One obvious consequence of globalization is the increasing intensity of competition in many sectors of the economy.

Increasing turbulence and instability. Managers are experiencing an increase in the pace, complexity and unpredictability of work life.

Technological innovation.  Technology is changing profoundly the nature of work and the capabilities required to manage.

A shift from an industrial economy to a  knowledge, service, and information and communications technology (ICT) based economy. With this shift, human and social capital are replacing financial capital as the most important strategic resources to be developed.  Traditional concepts of work, of jobs, and of motivation are being challenged, as are the values underlying the management of human, social and financial resources.

Changing value systems are finding expression in different life style and work style expectations on the part of employees, managers, customers, and communities as a whole. Generations X and Y are insisting on better work/life balance, greater flexibility in work and careers, and greater gender equality.

Societal expectations of business are increasing and broadening. To create long-term shareholder value executives are obliged to understand and respond to the changing value expectations and demands from society.

Spiritualization. According to Pat Aburdene, author of Megatrends 2010, ‘The power of spirituality is arguably the greatest megatrend of our era.’ In a recent book (Spiritual Enterprise: Building Your Business in the Spirit of Service, 2007) EBBF member Larry Miller shows how basic moral and spiritual principles or values can be applied to management and leadership.

Implications for Management

The implications of these forces at work are very clear: companies of all sizes must win the war for talent, redefine their fundamental purpose, recognize the increasing importance of women at all levels, and move toward a more holistic concept of organization as a social community.

The war for talent. Human and social talent is becoming the world’s most sought after commodity. In the knowledge economy of the 21st century, talent will remain  the scarcest of scarce resources.’

Increasing importance of women. Professional firms and companies in growth markets are vying for talent. They recognize increasingly that their inability to recruit, motivate and retain women is a major constraint on their capacity to compete and grow.

Redefining corporate purpose. To begin with, there is a need to redefine the purpose of the corporation in a manner that reflects the real needs of all stakeholders. In her recent publication Purpose before Profit Professor Marjo Lips-Wiersma defines the spiritual purpose of an enterprise as ‘to provide products and services to meet the real needs of humankind’.  This redefinition of purpose from maximizing profit to meeting real needs must be reflected in the vision and mission of the organization.

Toward a more holistic organization. Another implication of these forces at work is that companies of all sizes must move toward a more holistic or web-like framework  of organization. Structures must become more decentralized, connected and relational, and less hierarchical. Systems of communication and interaction must allow for more dialogue and consultative approaches to decision making. At the same time, the ‘softer’ elements such as purpose, culture, shared values, and people must be aligned. This represents a revolution and necessary shift in the way companies will be led and managed tomorrow.

Moving toward a partnership paradigm. One of the concepts supporting more holistic organizations is that of partnership. As companies become increasingly global, workforces become more diverse; the role of business in society broadens. New forms of partnership are emerging and proving to be challenging but more effective solutions.

Women Excel in All Fields of Endeavour

In the following paragraphs we explore several propositions concerning women as leaders: first, that women are good leaders; second that women are different from men; third that women tend to lead differently from men.

Women are good leaders. That women can and do make effective leaders is incontestable. Whether in government, NGO/civil society organizations, in academia, or in professional firms, women have proven to be equal to men in leadership roles and in capability if not in numbers. And what about the world of business? Here again we find women moving into and succeeding at all levels of management and leadership.

Women are demonstrating their talents as entrepreneurs. In many countries more than one-third of new companies are started by women. A number of studies have shown that women’s ways of leading these small and medium-size enterprises are often better suited than those of many men.

Are women different from men? Men and women in large organizations share many values and traits. By and large both women and men are committed to their work and careers, which they consider as core to their meaning and purpose in life and to their personal and social identities, status and standing. Yet, women are not male clones; they are not merely ‘men in skirts’. Many highly qualified women in business have different needs and wants from men and find it difficult and even counterproductive to replicate the ‘male dominator’ model. They interactively partner with others outside work and generally have greater responsibilities for child and elder care. Furthermore, they often have somewhat different professional values and aspirations. Money is often less important, more flexible work options are more important, and they show stronger guilt feelings in attempting to balance work and family well-being (Hewett, 2007).

Of course, not all women are alike, nor are all men. They all have differing talents, motivations and priorities. According to Helen Fisher, an American anthropologist from Rutgers University, men are more analytical; women are better long-term planners. She bases her findings on archaeological evidence, MRI brain scans, genetics and large-scale surveys of how men and women behave.  Men and women, she says, think differently and therefore behave differently because their brains develop differently. Brain scans prove it, as does plenty of other research. On average, women gather more data, consider the context, are more intuitive, have a sympathizing mind and think more long-term. Ms Fisher calls it ‘web thinking’.

Jim Andrews, the Diversity Manager for Schlumberger, finds that diversity encourages creativity and innovation and that his company has seen the benefits of having more women in the workforce over the past few years (Maitland, 2008). Men, on the other hand, are more focused, think linear, focus on rules and the short-term – ‘step thinking’. Male doctors focus on the specific illness and its treatment, while female doctors tend to take a more holistic approach to health. When men get older and their testosterone levels sink, their brains start to work differently – they become more sympathetic to the plight of others. Women however become more decisive and, yes, more ‘male-like’, as their estrogen diminishes. So if women are so different, do they lead differently?

Another interesting theory is that men and women may have different career cycles. According to Wittenberg-Cox and Maitland (2008, pp. 242-56), both women and men during their 20s are ‘career-first’: dedicated to having the best education and challenging work experience possible. Then, in their 30s, there emerges a fork in the road. Men and ‘career-first’ or ‘alpha women’ continue to commit heavily to professional advancement, development of networks and personal reputation building. But many women enter a stage in which they may need or call for more flexibility, some for maternity or elder care, others simply being less comfortable with issues of networks, visibility, travel and long hours.  After 40, if they have survived the issues, these same women are ready to reinvest professionally and to assume more challenging leadership roles. This renewal, which may well become a major source of new talent, may well continue on into the 60s, long after many of their male counterparts have retired to their clubs and other personal passions. While the above differences need to be accommodated, one commonality is clear: like men, women spend many decades in the workforce.

Do women and men lead differently? Now that we have seen that women can and do become good leaders in all forms of organizations and that women do differ from men in some respects, we turn to the interesting and more relevant question of whether women and men in large companies lead differently. This is the subject of an ongoing and inconclusive debate. Numerous studies have concluded that their leadership styles do differ. One research project found that male and female entrepreneurs think similarly but that their leadership styles differ and that gender differences do show up in decision-making: men strongly emphasize logic or left-brain thinking; women balance logic with right-brain thinking, that is, feelings, intuition, relationships, sensitivity and values.

Similar differences showed up from a Catalyst survey in the UK:

“Women managers see and do things differently from male managers. They are more sensitive, more intuitive, committed, and multi-tasked.  They are more focused on the process of getting things done, whereas men tend to be focused on the task at hand. We need both. Also women can cope more easily as structures change from hierarchical to matrix and web styles of management. (Catalyst, 2002)”

The survey, sponsored by Women’s International Forum, concluded that on the whole there are notable differences in leadership styles. Taking care of others is perceived by women and men alike in all European countries to be the defining quality of women leaders. On the other hand, taking charge of people and situations was perceived to be the defining quality of men leaders. Men are perceived as outperforming women in being more action-oriented, in taking charge, in influencing upward, and in manipulating their environment.

Rosener, in another study, found that men are more likely than women to describe their leadership as being ‘transactional’ or a series of transactions with subordinates. They are also more likely to use power that comes from their positions and formal authority. In contrast, women tend to describe themselves as ‘transformational’ leaders and ascribe their ‘power’ more to their personal characteristics. Women more often mention such aspects of leadership as encouraging participation and inclusion, sharing power and information, enhancing the self-worth of others, and energizing others. Women also differ in seeking to contribute to a higher purpose.


“The world of humanity has two wings – one is women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible. Not until the world of women becomes equal to the world of men in the acquisition of virtues and perfections, can success and prosperity be attained as they ought to be. “


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