In what sense do women differ from men in the corporate world?

ze 50mm F/1:1.2 / Originally uploaded by ZespiraL

I guess it all depends on the eye watching. However, the authors of the book ‘Why women mean business’ (published this year) aim to provide some cues explaining how women differ from men (generally speaking). Below is a brief summary of what I think is their main message on this topic.

1. Women think their boss will spot their talent
‘There is a deep-rooted belief among women that if they do a good job they will be promoted, recognised and rewarded.’ (Wittenberg-Cox and Maitland, 2008:228). Women believe they don’t have to tell their boss how good they are. Any executive would find this attitude naïve. Thus, in order to keep women talents onboard there is a need for formalising performance management, leadership reviews, etc.

2. Women don’t like the ‘politics’ of organisational power structures
Women tend to have a bigger discomfort with power structures in organisations than men do. So they refuse to get involved. Women may view these struggles more as ‘self-promotion and power-grabbing’ (ibid:228.) than actually getting the job done. Thus, they clear off power struggles more quickly than men do. In order to facilitate change, companies need to train women in realising that politics are a part of their job description. Simultaneously, managers need to be aware of the need to support women in the process of increasing their degree of dealing with politics.

3. Women value authenticity
According to a survey of 516 executive and professional women by Aspire, a UK consultancy on coaching and leadership development, these are the top motivating factors, in order of importance:

• Making a difference
• Being challenged
• Believing in their company’s direction
• A sense of satisfaction in their team
• Recognition

Then it makes sense that ‘being authentic’ collides with the need of being politic at times, that is, playing a game and hiding your thoughts and feelings.

4. Women’s careers are not linear
While men’s career tend to be more or less a straight line going upwards, women’s careers are not linear. They tend to look more like an M shaped curve. The ‘valley’ in the middle is normally due to them taking care of small children for a while. Naturally, women’s careers peak a decade or so later than men’s careers. So, expecting women to be fast trackers in their 30s will normally happen less often than men. However, if a company solely believes that talented managers only can rise to stardom during their 30s, they must rethink this stand. You’ll have to stretch the ‘bandwidth’ of women career timeline. It may start later due to many of them taking the biggest share of child rearing, because their husbands are busy building their own career.

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In what sense do women differ from men in the corporate world?

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