Men and women have different ways of doing business – I refer to these as the ‘masculine way’ and the ‘feminine way’. Of course, men can be feminine and women can be masculine, but there are business characteristics that align with their gender. I am often asked which way of doing business is more successful.
If your definition of ‘success’ in business is related to purely the speed, money and the size of the business you could say that doing business the traditionally masculine way is more successful.
From my 28 years’ of experience in business, I have observed that the dominant language and behaviour is masculine. This is expected because the majority of those in business are men since men have held a monopoly over business ownership throughout history – therefore, their characteristics are seen as the most successful, the norm.
However, this definition of success does not include many things:
- Is everybody happy working in the business?
- Is the product or service outstanding?
- Does the business give back to society?
- Is the business very profitable?
You will know none of these things if you define a business’s success by only its size and turnover.
The success of women in business
More women than ever have started their own business in recent years. In my country (The Netherlands) 30% of registered businesses are now female-owned, showing that times are rapidly changing. However, many women find they struggle to create a successful business if they stick to the above definition of ‘success’.
Can you then conclude that their businesses are less successful?
Business is conducted mostly the ‘male’ way; many women find it difficult to create a big business and only the ones that adapt the strategies and characteristics that men have been using for decades are the women that become successful quickly.
I have been there, and I can tell you from my own experience that it was wearing me out. I felt that I was always trying to prove myself to others; and, as the only woman in my niche, I was copying men.
Masculine and Feminine
So what are the specific characteristics that I call traditionally masculine?
- Having focus
- Thinking in systems
- Thinking big
- Risk taking
- Being goal-oriented
- Overviewing the whole process
- Fast at implementation
- Promoting yourself
- Saying yes before you know how to solve it
- Being a tough negotiator
Many women don’t like these characteristics, or cannot perform them as naturally. Women traditionally:
- Like to involve everyone instead of competing with one another.
- See and hear everything and find it difficult to decide what is most important. To them, everything is important.
- Find it difficult to think in systems, and are very detail oriented instead.
- Like to play safe.
- Don’t always need goals, because they trust their female intuition and follow the flow, wherever that takes them. That might seem to be going nowhere and then all of a sudden something happens, and everything miraculously works out without a lot of effort.
- Don’t have an overview or need for speed, because they are detail oriented. They see all the little things and cannot approve anything before everything is perfect.
- Underestimate themselves.
- Believe that with negotiating too hard, you ruin the relationship, and the relationship is more important to them.
Not all men and women will recognise their own characteristics here, however, these are included for illustrative purposes.
So, what is better?
Do you continuously compete and watch your competitors try to chase you, or do you do your own thing, make sure it is done well and ignore what others do?
Do you think big and act fast or go slow and together, with less chance of failure?
Do you stick to deadlines and goals or follow the flow and work effortlessly?
Do you take risks and play with the security of your business, or never go bankrupt?
Research shows that investing one dollar in a female-owned business will give a secure return on investment of two dollars. With men-owned businesses, it remains a risk (men traditionally take more risks and most investors are men).
Do you overestimate yourself and not be able to face the expectations, or over-deliver because you underestimate yourself?
It depends on how you look at success and if money, speed, and scale are your main drivers. It doesn’t have to be one way or another if you try to create a balance between both ways of working. This way, you do not stick rigidly to one way and are open to new ideas.
Men have paved the roads for how to do business for centuries and now women are coming to make a change. We need more of a balance of the masculine and feminine in business – a business that is big, has a good profit and in which every stakeholder thrives, is the best of both worlds.
I believe that to be successful in business you need both these stereotypically masculine and feminine characteristics. Women should incorporate more of the skills that men are traditionally good at and men need to learn the skills that come more naturally to women. That way businesses will have happier staff, clients, collaborative partners and the ability to make fewer mistakes. Women will also be more visible, effective and impactful – and thus become better leaders and have bigger businesses.
Tineke Rensen has been in business for 28 years. She sold her business in favour of educating and motivating fellow women internationally. She is a keynote speaker and founded the Powerful Business Women’s Network and is a co-author of Transformation Lessons as part of ATL Europe. www.PowerfulBusinessAcademy.com