Quite a lot actually!
My offensively sexist headline was used as a “hook” to encourage you to think about gender equality in business.
In my years in business very little management discussion has focused on the simple fact that our population is more or less and equal split between males and females. When gender is discussed it is usually in terms of targeting a product at either men or women – as an example I am told that in my son’s local supermarket in New York they now sell pink rifles for the “girls”!
Where is he going with this? I hear you ask; well stay with me.
Each week I set aside two days, usually Tuesday and Thursday to meet with clients, prospective clients and the affiliate businesses we maintain relationships with. This week was different.
All but one of my meetings was with a female CEO or Manager; it wasn’t planned it just happened that way.
Interestingly SME’s lead the way in gender balance as over 32% of SME CEO’s are female compared to only 8% in the corporate world.
Now back to my week. It turned out to be both challenging and exciting as I quickly recognised that the “pattern” of the meetings was subtly different, the questions put to me were far more direct and probing and some of the feedback regarding our corporate direction and product offerings was more frank than usual. This was consistent across my two days of meetings and the only difference was the gender mix of the meetings.
I didn’t initially think anything of the changed “pattern” I merely enjoyed the buzz and excitement that flows from strong and intelligent discussion and was pleased with progress made. Towards the end of my string of meetings I realised this “pattern” had to be more that a coincidental meeting of minds with a series of very challenging intellects.
These very smart CEO’s were different. They were WOMEN!
Research from Dr Patrice Zsabo of The University of Manchester published in 2012 states that males and females do think and act differently in both social and professional settings.
The research suggested females demonstrated higher levels of both Social IQ and social empathy than men, they are conciliators by nature, good team members and more detailed, honest and open in their discussion with colleagues.
I recognised that I was benefiting from the subtly different ideas and views which flowed back and forth during the discussions with these very smart, savvy and professional women and I believe they felt the same. I quickly realised that collectively we were stronger, a more complete team.
I didn’t agree with all that was put forward but I had cause to stop, think and question my positions and ideas and that very questioning provided me with a wider understanding of the issues.
Logically if 50 percent of the population is female and 50 percent male I am at a loss to understand why current management doesn’t reflect this.
Why as managers do we not venture out to seek the views of the opposite sex? Surely for optimum balance and a better understanding both sexes should be involved in discussing and determining the corporate direction.
I just don’t buy the “if we are professionals our sex doesn’t matter” It does. Management should reflect the society we live in, the clients and customers we do business with indeed it should reflect humanity.
It’s up to us male and female to make this happen and it’s easier as an SME to lead the change than it is for a corporation.
So let’s make a difference and take the SME balance to 50/50 we are already closer than our corporate counterparts.