A day after congressional hearings on women in the workplace presented a report, "New Evidence in Gender Pay Gap for Women in Management," www.jec.senate.gov, the National Council for Research on Women (NCRW), held a briefing on Wednesday to highlight additional research on women at work.
Women in management earn, on average, 81% of what men do, according to the government study.
NCRW presented research by the authors of the book, "The Female Vision: Women's Real Power at Work," by Sally Helgesen and Julie Johnson.
"Mainstreaming of female vision is needed if corporations are going to" thrive, says Linda Basch, president of NCRW. She quoted figures from Catalyst, a research and consulting firm, saying that women are "40%" of management ranks, "only 15%" of corporate directors, "30%" of executives and "only 2.6%" of CEOs.
But in financial services, women are leaving, Basch noted, referring to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal. NCRW's research on women in money management shows that women "control only 3% of that $2 trillion industry."
What women bring to management and executive ranks is a different way of looking at things. "Neuroscientific research suggests," Helgesen says, that men and women tend to focus attention differently.
"Women focus in a broader way," like "radar, scanning the environment," taking in "context and nuance," in a "parallel processing model," Helgesen explains. Men focus "in a laserlike way, deeply, on one thing." This focus, she adds, on "bottom line, facts, etc., has kept women outside of leadership roles...but it is a leadership skill that corporations need." In fact, she paraphrases GE's Jeffrey Imelt's view that after the financial meltdown he looks for this trait in employees: people who can "see around corners."
Women's "broad spectrum notice," as the authors call it, means not only do they manage differently, but that they purchase "professional services differently," according to Anne Weisberg, director, talent, at Deloitte L.P. Women who are prospective clients "tend to want to see the whole team," she says. They ask, "Who is actively going to do the work?" Some men however "misinterpret" the woman buyer's question as "indecision" and want to know "Who is the decision maker" for the sale. That doesn't bode well for that sale when the decision maker is the woman who was asking that question. She notes that men need to be part of this conversation both to understand how women think and act in management roles as well as in the role of customer.
Further, this "broad spectrum notice" characteristic of women isn't typically part of the leadership rubric that companies use to identify future leaders, says Weisberg."How you evaluate leadership attributes makes a difference in the questions you ask," that help identify whom you promote.
More understanding of these differences is crucial to "identifying leadership potential," Weisberg explains. But it is a two-way street: women have to "negotiate for the conditions of their success," she says, which is another sign of leadership. And companies have to embrace the different ways men and women think and act and give them clear pathways to success.