The positives of having a women centred workforce

12 Dec

Women are our the worlds most important asset. They have nurtured families for years. We call our own Planet mother Earth and we have worshipped female deities like Devi, Venus, Sri Lakshmi and Mother Mary for centuries.

Yet when it comes to the business we tend to fail in seeing the value of women in the workplace. This week I was invited as a panel member by Carlow Enterprise board here in Ireland to address female school students who wanted to field questions about the place of women in the world of business. Also present was Miriam O Callaghan a Journalist,political television presenter, mother of six and positive role model for Women and Men alike.

One of the questions that came to the panel from a female student focused on the fear of not being good enough to make it in business and the fear of failing. We see very poor examples of business role models in programmes like “The Apprentice” where we constantly hear statements like “failure is not an option” or “ winning is everything” or “Being in business is not about making friends” etc. This comes mainly from the male competitors but also more frequently from some of the female participants trying to emulate the male approach to business.

Lets put some of these quotes to rest. Firstly failure is an option….. always. We can never fully appreciate our final goal unless we have failed along the way. We are learning when we fail, we exit our comfort zones when we fail, we grow when we fail. As Peter Drucker says if he was entering a new corporation he would find all the members that have never had made a mistake and fire them. They are the people that have not taken a risk. I see his point.

Often within business we set goals that are for the most time unattainable. Ricardo Semler at Semco sets 6 month plans rather than 3 or 5 year plans that are simply hopeful projections. If the company is still there in 6 months, simply put a plan in place for the next 6 months.

It is alright to make friends in business. It is even more important that we forge friendships within the workplace. We spend more time with these people each day then our families. Each of us feels better about where we work when we know we have people we care about to meet at work each day. We perform better when we are surrounded by an atmosphere of friendliness compatibility and encouragement. We will not get to experience this if we believe that “business is not about making friendships”

The young female student felt that she could not compete in a male centred world of Business because she worried not only about failing but also not being able to live up to the standards that were set. I am not sure what standards were set but we need to be able to speak with some honesty here. We would probably not be in the fiscal difficulties we are in now if more women had been involved in making decisions within financial and political organizations.

One of the exercises I do with students is get them to look at their core values, Happiness is nearly always number one as is Family. Two values that I would commend in anyone. Friendship comes in a close third. These are the values that can help business move in a positive more caring  direction. I believe that women in business can be at the forefront of this movement without having to feel the need they have to become testosterone fuelled counterparts. Our financial woes are testament to the fact that this has not worked.

Any organizations or committees that I am involved with have only ever benefitted from the inclusion of women. Trying to emulate male practices and characteristics should not be the goal of women entering the world of business. Having the strength to stay as you are and bring those strengths to the workplace will benefit us all at a time of great uncertainty.

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