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Why Women Mean Business

Why Women Mean Business

Kerrie Halmi | Excelle

August 01, 2008

Why Women Mean Business is the title of a new must-read book for all executives and management. Written by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox and Alison Maitland, it lays out a comprehensive case for why organizations need to bring more women into their leadership ranks.

One concept in the book is looking at what companies need to do to become “bi-lingual” when it comes to women. They give the following tips:

1. Top management needs to “get it." As a business issue, gender equality needs to have senior executive backing and a budget.

2. Teaching managers to proactively manage differences. One difference that they cited is one that I see frequently with my clients. Women often set their bar of competence higher than men do. Internal company research at Hewlett Packard demonstrated that women apply for open job positions if they think they respond to 100% of the criteria listed, while men respond as soon as they feel they cover 60% of the requirements, according to Cara Antoine, a general manager at the company in Europe.

Worse though, she noted, is that hiring managers do the same. They recruit women if they respond to 100% of the criteria, but they are ready to recruit men as long as they respond to 60%. Further, women recruiters are tougher on women candidates than men are!

3. Empowering women. This is a lot of the work that I do—helping women expand their own networks, get mentors and understand the “politics” of corporate America.

4. Banning biases. Part of waking up to gender involves undoing the positive discrimination that currently exists—in favor of men. Companies and managers will make more progress in attracting and keeping women if they recognize that performance, competence and leadership are concepts heavily biased towards the prevailing norm, which for the most part remains overwhelmingly male.

Read the book, and get your senior management team to read it—or at least give them the summary!

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