Alex Butler wants to put feminine values at the heart of business
I’ve learnt quite a bit about myself over the past year. Some of it is good and surprising and some not so. Part of that learning has been about how my femininity has impacted on my approach to establishing myself independently, and setting up a business.
Do read on. I want to put an alternative view on the table about the role that feminine values play in the business world and how I believe these might just be powering the enormous socio-economic changes of our time.
Historically women have always been a part of the major industrial changes of the past. And yet business and commerce has been defined in terms of masculine values for centuries.
I was interested to know – is ‘business’ finally becoming more feminine?
The fact is that the so-called female values of natural cooperation, interdependence, consensus, negotiation abilities, global vision, reciprocity, endurance, psychological strength, motivation, trust, taking into account human needs, creativity, support and partnership over competition are the rocks on which future business is being built. It’s even got a name now – Feminomics.
There’s an extraordinary woman called Halla Tomasdottir co-founder of Audur Capital, which got through the eye of the financial storm in Iceland by applying 5 traditionally “feminine” values to financial services. They’ve been instrumental in rebuilding Iceland’s economy since it’s collapse in 2008. Her passion is releasing the incredible economic potential of women’s ways of doing business and I thoroughly recommend you settle in to watch this video of her speak here at TEDWomen.
As you can see, it’s not about the eighties business world of naked personal ambition and ruthless competition any more. If you don’t believe me, just look at how the world is turning in on overpaid executives, businesses who don’t work with their communities and corporates that have lost touch with their customers. Two thirds of people around the world thought that the global economic crisis was a result of a crisis of ethical values’. (Davos 2010) We’ve simply had enough of the recklessness and the idea that financial wealth has been valued over human value.
These types of values prepare us to manage crisis better, to build networks that enable our businesses to thrive as part of new ecosystems and establish trust with customers. They mean that we can recruit and retain great people who buy into our values and best of all, we all realise much greater human potential.
It’s what we used to call a ‘no-brainer’.
Let me be clear. This does not mean that business is now the domain of women only. Nor am I stereotyping female emotions. I’m just saying that when we put our working life hats on, we have traditionally left these values at home. It is only a long overdue recognition that although it may be true that women may apply these values more naturally than their male counterparts, men and women now have the choice to consciously apply cooperative feminine values or more competitive masculine values in specific situations. It is a matter of what works best and balance.
I’m convinced that we need to start thinking about values in our working lives – whether they are defined as masculine or feminine. Perhaps it’s about being more human and therefore able to adapt better to our day-to-day lives. Perhaps that’s why more of us women are taking control of our working lives and designing them in a way that works for us. It’s fantastic to see that over 60% of young women aspired to start their own business.
This week’s contribution was inspired by the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network, a fabulous group of over 150 women business owners from across the globe who keep me going when I don’t know whether I can. We met last week in Delhi.