This was submitted to me byand a really good friend (posted as is on Huffington Post).
In my previous post I talked about why I believe that women not only ‘deserve a seat at the table’ but should be looking at building their OWN tables, and running the world from there, instead. I honestly feel that the planet we co-habit has rotated away from its previous patriarchal, masculine nature – win at all costs – to show its more feminine side, where we all win together.
In this new world, certain aptitudes are more highly prized, because they deliver divergent results. I believe we, as women, should start to build on them. They are our competitive advantage after all.
A small caveat: I love men. I do. They are amazing creatures, without whom the world would be a dull and lackluster place. This post was not written while my bra burned in the corner. Any comparisons are designed for the sake of humour and, if I’m honest, also because they’re mostly true. A second small caveat: much of this is based on generalised assumptions about the basic nature of womanhood. It will not apply to all.
If you haven’t yet read ‘Now, focus on your strengths’, maybe it’s time to do so (even if just to add weight to the argument you’re reading here). In it, the authors advocate the building of the core, unique strengths of a particular individual, to maximise the potential to excel – after all, we enjoy more, learn faster and execute more efficiently things we’re naturally designated to do.
This flies in the face of what many of our mothers taught us about ‘working on our weaknesses’, which, inevitably, leads to everyone being ok at most things. Each of us have our own USP, which should be bolstered and encouraged, in order to separate us, by our innate gifts, from the listless pack of mediocrity.
If you apply this to our gender, rather than ourselves, there are certain characteristics that women are genetically and psychologically ‘stronger’ at. If we can bring these to play in our lives, and our work, not only will we spin the globe faster, but we will also win faster, climb higher and have a longer lasting impact on the greater society in which we live. There are three I’d like to focus on.
Women tend to consider everyone, rather than just the one. We look at a bigger picture, and consider the implications on everyone around us. It’s this that has allowed us to better raise children, being more likely to explain the potential outcomes of a wrong action to an errant child in order to alter behaviour, rather than just spitting out “Because I said so!”. Heck, we will put our lives on the line for our offspring and often become care-givers to our ageing parents. We tend to think about the whole village, because we’re the ones who are left to fend for it when the blokes go off to war (or the cigar club). As creatures with comparatively weak shoulders, we know how much we need each other, and we realise therein lies our strength.
Unfortunately, many of us spend so much time trying to replicate boys, rather than compete with them on our own terms, that we end up creating division where we could, rather, so easily create unity. Teams. We are adept at communicating a shared worldview, and galvanising individuals around it. The world needs more teams, which multiply their effectiveness through an amplified body-count, working in harmony. And we’re the ones who can bring people together and make it happen.
Sensible is not ‘boring’. Nor does it refer to those dreadful shoes… Being sensible means we consider the consequences of our actions, which allows us to see the true value of (or lack of) that action before taking it, rather than simply leaping in, balls first. Could you imagine the William Tell story happening if Mrs. Tell had the crossbow?
While men just do things because they ‘feel right’, because they’re ‘in the gut’ or because they haven’t thought of a good reason not to (one of my personal favourite characteristics of men, by the way, but if I had a dollar for every stupid decision I’ve talked a man out of, I’d be writing this on my yacht), we can make smarter, long-term decisions because we’re not as goaded by our id. We can ask ‘What will happen if this goes wrong, and can we prepare for that?’ without getting towel-whipped in the bathroom afterwards. If it weren’t for women, many men would likely survive on hot dogs and peanut butter, because they never think about ‘the list’. We do. Call us anal, or call us overly fastidious, but the devil is in the details – and that makes him our bitch.
This is an important trait to have when making decisions that could make, or lose, millions of people millions of Dollars. It’s equally important when considering acquisitions, mergers and directional shifts in our organisations. Clear thinking, and a wider lens of consideration, makes us exceptionally good decision makers. After all, it wasn’t a woman who almost started a war, potentially killing hundreds because someone “couldn’t keep their potatoes out of my damn pig!” (Check out the Pig War of 1859.)
Empathy, simply put, means that we get the way others feel and, because our motives take those feelings into consideration, we can create products, solutions, systems and businesses that will leave the world in a better place than we found it. This world has, and always will be, a world of people – which is our forté, thank you very much.
The ability to identify with others makes us uniquely qualified for positions in marketing, because we sense buying motives clearer. It makes us powerful managers since the Dark Side-style Darth Vader leader has been widely discredited (it worked before; it doesn’t now). We are more likely to find solutions to personnel problems and, because we see underlying intentions, we are able to encourage the best from those with whom we work. This makes sense on so many levels.
This empathy also impacts on what we can create better, because we’re concerned with more than just profit. Bethlehem Alemu started soleRebels, which is the fastest growing footwear company on my continent (Africa), in order to provide green jobs for her community, and made a fortune doing so. Lorna Rutto has saved massive areas of natural forest from annihilation with her company EcoPost, and will create around 100 000 jobs in the next few years. Our ability to put purpose before profits is exactly what makes us so likely to be profitable.
And so there you have it, my two cents worth of wisdom. The world of work in particular is changing at a staggering pace, and for women this could not be more true. If we dig deep, we can truly galvanize our intrinsic genetic and psychological characteristics to make valuable contributions in society. But to empower women and girls – to win faster, climb higher and flex those muscles – we need to search within ourselves to play at our core strengths. Inclusiveness, sensibility and empathy … I say.
Master your strengths ladies, for that is where your true girl power lies.