I have two older sisters who are doctors, two strong-minded daughters, a mother who is a child-psychologist and a wife who doesn’t put up with my … well, you know. My business also has an equal balance of men and women on our leadership team. Needless to say, I have personal experience in the power and contribution women make to any endeavor and I feel strongly that if you have more men than women on your leadership team (or any team for that matter), you are underutilizing one of your most powerful assets – a woman’s brain.
I am also a very analytical person – I have degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science – so I like my opinions to be backed by fact and research.
The research is in.
- Organizations with a more equal balance of women in top leadership positions, have stronger relationships with customers and shareholders, and a more diverse and profitable business. Also, they outperform the competition in every measure of profitability: equity, revenue, and assets (Pepperdine University)
- There’s little correlation between a group’s collective intelligence and the IQs of its individual members. But if a group includes more women, its collective intelligence rises. (MIT Sloan School of Management)
- Companies with diverse executive teams outperform competitors run by men only (Grant Thornton)
Ok – there is a research and a business case to support what I grew up knowing to be true – you need women and men working together for a team and organization to perform optimally. But why is that? In our work at the Institute for Health and Human Potential, we like to look to neuroscience to answer questions like this.
The latest brain research.
The hippocampus is a key area of the brain when it comes to memory and decision-making. In women, the hippocampus is larger and when under pressure it receives more blood flow. Together these are important because it helps women to be more effective at processing and coding emotional experiences into their long-term memory, as well as linking past experiences and recalling intricate physical details. But this goes beyond women having empathy or being more inclusive.
Women’s brains also have nearly ten times more white matter than men’s and the structure connecting the left and right lobes (corpus callosum) is 10% thicker, on average, in female brains. The benefit of these differences is that under pressure women tend to weigh more variables, consider more options, see more context, connect more brain areas and visualize a wider array of solutions and outcomes to a problem. Men, on the other hand, when under pressure, have a greater tendency to develop tunnel vision, the tendency to focus exclusively on a single or limited goal or point of view while ignoring everything else around them. While there can be a very real benefit for men (and organizations): the ability to focus on short term results such as making quarterly ‘numbers’, a focus of many organizations, it is not always helpful over the long term or when there is more complexity in a situation.
Now, just about every woman I’ve talked to about this says “yes, men get tunnel vision – I see it all the time!”. They will also tell me that being able to process so many variables can also lead to indecision.
That’s why it’s not more men or more women, you need a balance of men AND women together making decisions and leading organizations. Most organizations have an imbalance with more men than women in leadership positions. If this is true in your organization or your team, then you are not utilizing one of your most valuable assets.
Back to family
You might be thinking, but what about this poor author who is surrounded by women – isn’t his family life out of balance? Well for starters, I love all the women in my life and I am lucky to have so many amazing women in my business too. However, when it was time to get a dog, I made sure it was a boy – although he gets tunnel vision when he’s hungry or is chasing his toy!