Female thinking shapes the workplace

Oct 26 2007 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Female thinking in the form of lateral and collaborative approaches to problem solving is replacing traditional "male" work practices at all levels of corporate life as the feminisation of the workplace accelerates.

The growing numbers of women in influential roles in the modern work place means that old structures and business approaches are being challenged, making way for new ways of doing business and a new approach to delivery and products.

And according to a study by the UK-based Future Laboratory, skills associated with female right brain thinking such as intuition, creativity and the ability to collaborate are becoming as important in the business world as the traditional left brain, rational approaches usually adopted by their male colleagues.

The Living Britain Report commissioned by insurance company Zurich, says that women are becoming more important in the global marketplace not just as workers, but also as consumers, entrepreneurs, managers and investors.

Yet it is in the workplace that the growing influence of "womenomics" – a term initially coined by the Economist magazine – is particularly marked, spurred on by the increasing numbers of women at high levels of management.

Female influence is also increasingly thanks to the growing numbers of women who come back to work after taking time out to have children, encouraged by the greater willingness of employers to help them accommodate their work lives around their families.

More than half of mothers with children under five in the UK now in work, the report points out, a trend which is greatly helped by the number of corporations now taking a matrix approach to company structure, rather than a hierarchal one.

At the same time, women demanding – and getting - a working schedule to fit in with their multi tasking lives, including compressed hours and remote working agreements.

As the result, the report argues, women are increasingly calling the shots, so much so that the way businesses attract and retain women is now seen as a sign of progressiveness and innovation.

Meanwhile, the report argues, both brands and businesses are having to respond to women's demands and needs, whether it's because of the increase in female internet usage, the fact that they dominate household spending decisions, or their equal significance in categories that have been traditionally viewed as male, such as technology, cars and financial services.

Right brain thinking, which is more creative, collaborative and empathic, is proving to be the key to helping businesses communicate with a more enlightened consumer who wants transparency, authenticity and understanding, with "experience" becoming the new commodity.


Older Comments

Flexible work schedules and a more empathic workplace makes a lot of sense. The article only has a positive spin. Having been the only man in an all-woman office and then in a workplace of mostly women (here in America) I see a sort of infantalization taking place. There is a tendency for bosses to become the mother and marginalize employees expecting them to act as children. Full grown adults are happy to celebrate birthdays as if they were children. Also conflict is usually avoided and instead of clearing the air and forgetting about an issue, it engenders passive-aggressive behavior. Women need to learn how to manage adult men. I can see a case for women and men not working together. We have single-sex schools, why not single sex workplaces.

Christopher California

Oh no, Christopher! Please don't relegate me to the 'single sex' workplace...the land of endless birthday parties and passive-aggressiveness! I can sympathize, because I work in such the environment you describe now (the mother hen and the children), and am looking to get out as soon as possible. There's way too much drama, and I hate it. As a woman, it embarrasses me because it emphasizes the worst of the stereotypes. But, I think that reflects more a lack of management talent than anything else. Maybe people (men and women) who don't 'get it' revert to the worst of the stereotypes (aggressiveness in men, passive-aggressiveness in women).

Fortunately, I have also known women in my career who bring in the best of what the article describes...collaboration, creativity, team-building. Unfortunately, it has been my experience that these often aren't the people managing teams! And, they can be overlooked by their male 'superiors' because they don't do business in the traditional way. Those skills are often seen as weaknesses.

My vote is that only people who have the inherent skills and wisdom comprise the 'leadership' of organization. There are plenty of men and women who can fit the bill. Unfortunately...I haven't run across many in my career.

(sorry for the cynicism...guess it's Monday talking!)

Laura Somewhere in the midwestern U.S.

Helen Fisher, in her book, The First Sex. The natural talent of women and how they are changing the world, talks about how women excel at web thinking. Women tend to want to explore multiple interactions, multiple paths, and see all the pieces of a puzzle. This she calls web thinking. Men often criticise women who think this way, calling them illogical, irrational, and imprecise...or worse! But this type of thinking, (versus more masculine step thinking) can give them an advantage when it comes to tackling complex business issues. This feminine mental flexibility has a genetic root. As competition increases, women's innate mental elasticity can be a valuable competitive advantage when it comes to planning, strategising and problem-solving.

michelle brailsford

yes i think that there is a feminisation of the workplace taking place and the female way of working is increasingly taking over from the male way as women have achieved more status and hinger positions and influence in the workplace and will continue to do so. Companies are now encouraging more females into managment and senior positions . women already outnumber men in university and college education