by John Ingrisano
Fifty years ago, it was a man’s world. The majority of women who were in business were secretaries and personal assistants. Women rarely ran the show. That has since changed … a lot. In fact, the very nature of business has been overhauled and re-invented since women began to move up the management/entrepreneurial ladder.
The male approach to business: Men tend to manage with a big stick. We see business in terms of warfare and sports rivalries. We go head to head with our competitors in a winner-take-all-loser-get-nothing race to conquer and achieve victory. We’re not all that big on cooperation. Our pecking order tends to be top-down vertical.
I remember that’s pretty much how it was when I entered the corporate world in 1977. All key managers were men, and the president of the company openly pitted his vice presidents against each other. The rivalries were ferocious. The idea was to work long hours, survive the contest, and beat the competitors both in and outside the corporation.
The female approach to business: Gradually, women began working their way into positions of authority and responsibility. At first, there was the stereotype that women made lousy bosses. Even many women thought so and openly said they’d rather have a male boss than a female boss any time. (Many said the same about the then-male-dominated field of gynecology, too.)
Well, today, women are not only accepted as managers, but many business-owning entrepreneurs are female. Here are a few stats, courtesy of The Center for Women’s Business Research:
- Fifteen of the Fortune 500 companies have women as CEOs.
- More than 10 million U.S. businesses have women as either 50% partners or outright owners.
- Twenty percent of all businesses that earn $1 million or more are owned by women.
The feminine advantage: Especially in the area of small business and especially in today’s tough-as-nails economy, women have transformed how many businesses work. For one thing, women tend to focus on cooperation and community rather than competition and go-it-alone-individualism. Their management style tends to be flatter, more horizontal, lacking the pecking order.
Most of all, while men tend to be solitary, women tend to be more natural as networkers. They know that, very often, a series of related businesses can do much better when they share marketing efforts and research. They also tend to help each other through tough times.
Oh, and just for the record, many of the female entrepreneurs and managers I know are just as ambitious and hard-driving as the men. Most just do it with more finesse.
The bottom line: When looking at business management, look at individuals who bring the best of both sexes, from the relentless, never-say-die drive of men to the determined relationship-building skills of women. – JRI