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Women and Leadership… Their Time has Come (and it’s about time!)

Angela Merkel (Germany), Margaret Thatcher (U.K.), Kim Campbell (Canada), Vaira Vike-Freiberga (Latvia), and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Liberia). Heard of any of them? If not, it’s time you did (no, seriously!) These are just a few past and present female heads of state throughout the world. Some, of course, have been/are better at their jobs than others and not all are equally well liked (which should come as no surprise because we often don’t like male heads of state either!). And these days, there is yet another prominent woman in the news making huge headlines (you guessed it) - that would, indeed, be Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee running for the position of President of the United States. You got that, right? The President of the United States of America, the most influential political position in the entire world! Yes, yes, everyone is making a big deal about her being the first woman and how historic a moment this is because… it damn well is a big deal!

So why this brief history lesson? The year is 2016 and thinking people the world over have recognized how important, how significant, and how profitable a contribution women make in a wide variety of arenas - politics being only one of them. In the world of business it is no different. Well, there is a difference but it’s all about the style (no, not the Versace kind!). Think of it in terms of “rapport” and “report” (you don’t have to be Einstein to know who is who). Women in business believe more in honing relationships with their customers, employees, and investors whereas men just “get right to it” (business that is — what were you thinking?). Each style has its advantages but the company that makes the best use of both wins and the company that chooses to willfully ignore the unique style that women bring to the game, loses (and why would they want to do that?). Building relationships in business is good for the long game. Get to know your customer, treat him/her right, and they’re yours forever (or at least until you really tick them off). This is good for the bottom line because you end up with a stable business and they spread the word — references, by Jove! Women are really, really good at this (not just talking- doing!)

Not only are women in business good at chatting you up, they plan ahead and they plan carefully. Traditionally, this has been a man’s world and women have had a steep learning curve trying to fit in. Sometimes it’s a bit like a square peg in a round hole. However, successful owners/managers have realized that a diverse approach is a smart approach.

Some of the particular strengths women bring to business shouldn’t really surprise anyone - just think back to a class in high school. So, they do their homework (and not at the last minute either) by researching thoroughly, building teams, consulting experts, and being willing to ask for guidance (without seeming to be biased — ever known a man to ask for directions if he’s lost? Hello?). So women owners, managers or leaders, overall, are a sure fire way to boost company profits. This is not to say men aren’t successful, of course they are, but this article isn’t about them, it’s about women, remember?

Another significant point to note is that women like to balance work with family. This is a good thing. Women understand that family and work need to complement one another (like riding a tandem bike – pedal together or fall off). Sure, steady growth, without becoming obsessive compulsive, allows everyone in the company to thrive. It means that while at work, one’s full attention is given to the job. There really is no need to burn the midnight oil unless you’re some curmudgeonly old crank who has no friends or family!

Additionally, women have a tendency to be more “risk-averse” than men but this should not be treated like some dirty word. They might not win big in six months but they don’t lose big either. Much of this has to do with MONEY, with funding. Statistics show that women don’t want to bite off more than they can chew, they don’t want to lose control of their decision making power, and they don’t often go to venture capitalists who are primarily male (and who like fast growth). What they do, instead, is start more modestly and they borrow less money initially- they hit up their family and friends. Remember the tortoise and the hare — who won there? Hey! Come to think of it, women owners might actually really benefit from seeking out a factoring company if they have accounts receivable - much lower risk.

The bottom line here is…the bottom line, actually. If women are not forced to behave like men in a business environment in order to “get ahead” but feel free to do business their way, everyone stands to benefit. All around the world, even in third world countries, women’s business acumen and strong work ethic has helped not only families but, also, communities emerge from poverty. From cottage industries to corporations, women are everywhere. They are not replacing men, they are working alongside men and everyone is richer for it.