by Jean Brittingham
A recent study on group IQ confirms what we at the SmartGirl’s Way have long known—that women have rocking relationship skills. The study shows that the ability of a group to solve a difficult problem was directly related to the number of women in the group--essentially the number of women increases the collective cognitive abilities of the group. Women are natural collaborators and relationship builders. What hasn’t been well documented yet, is the strong positive effect that these skills, referred to as “social sensitivity” in the study, have on the efficacy and productivity of groups working together in any capacity—including the work environment.
The growing understanding of the importance of this link and its positive impact on performance contradicts some of western society's most loved conventions—in particular, that smart people alone make a smart group and that feelings don’t matter in the workplace.
In an ever more complex world, the ability to read expression and tone, express empathy, effectively reframe a tense situation, and energize a group through a sense of camaraderie are the winning leadership skills of the future.
When I first became intrigued with “women’s ways at work” and in particular the aspects of the feminine at work in a masculine world, I began to be very conscious and take note of the language women use to describe who they are, what they are doing and how they are doing it. I started noting strong similarities in the skills that women were applying to their lives, no matter what they were doing. I also noticed that women tended not to talk about these skills to men, in particular to the men they worked with and worked for.
I started asking direct questions about this and was amazed at the consistency in the answer—women don’t talk to men about how they think, feel, work, make decisions, create, collaborate or achieve because up to now, men not only don’t understand it they think it is too “soft” and doesn’t belong in the work place. Worse yet, since it is not as natural for men, they tend to diminish the importance of this type of intelligence in the work environment. This even after strong uptake (at least theoretically) on the concept of emotional intelligence.
A strong contributing factor to the lack of acknowledgment of women’s unique skills at work has been the intentional (and obviously necessary) effort to create equity between the genders in terms of pay, access and opportunity. Sadly this effort has unintentionally diminished the unique and valuable differences between men and women.
Time to Embrace the Feminine Leadership Skill Set!
Highly refined “social sensitivity” is an outcome of the ability and natural tendency to create strong communities and relationships that endure whatever the circumstances. It is a subset of an amazing array of feminine strengths that we have just begun to openly discuss and tap.
These skills are amazing, awesome, world-changing!! Why would we want women to leave these capabilities to the other parts of their lives? They have kept families and society ticking along for millennia. They are the foundation for the way that things work when they are working really, really well. And they are dramatically missing in business.
Finally, and maybe most importantly—they are the same traits needed for society to shift to a sustainable and THRIVING existence on our big blue ball. I for one want more of that.