10 Reasons Why Now is a Great Time to Be a Woman in Business
March was Women’s History Month, which served as a great opportunity to celebrate the women who paved the way for so many who came after them. It’s also noteworthy, says Vickie Milazzo, because recent years have given way to such a fruitful time for women in business. She explains why women are taking center stage in the 21st century business world.
This year Women’s History month marked 100 years since significant “strides” were taken by women suffragists who marched on Washington. It’s certainly a great time for today’s women to look back at how far they’ve come. For example, consider that back when women suffragists were fighting for the right to vote. Even many women, let alone men, didn’t think they should play a significant role in politics or business. Today, of course, the gap between men and women continues to close.
Just a few years ago it was believed that an “act like a man” mentality was needed for any woman to be taken seriously in business. Today, playing down femininity is no longer necessary. In fact, says Vickie Milazzo, the almost constant changes to the way we communicate, interact, innovate, and do business are setting up an opportunity-filled future for women
“There’s never been a better time to be a woman in business,” says Milazzo, author of the New York Times bestseller Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman. “It’s undeniable that the more masculine command-and-control way of doing business is on its way out. Increasingly, businesses—and society in general—are coming to value more feminine qualities like participation, engagement, collaboration, relationship-building, and an appreciation for the greater good. Qualities that come naturally to most women.”
“Of course,” clarifies Milazzo, “that doesn’t mean women are suddenly getting a free ride to the top of the corporate ladder.”
“As the women who fought for the right to vote have shown us, no wickedly successful woman ever got anywhere waiting for her big chance to be given to her or for women to suddenly become as valued as men in the workplace or anywhere else for that matter,” says Milazzo. “And that’s not going to change anytime soon. However, it’s also true that a growing appreciation for collaboration, participation, and relationship-building have created a perfect storm for entrepreneurial and enterprising women. These qualities are at the very heart of what women do best.”
“We should not be afraid to express them. Women have every advantage right now. It’s time for more women to harness their strengths. We’ve never been better positioned to make our mark.”
Read on for a few feminine features that make women primed to succeed in business, and how you can take advantage of them:
Women aren’t afraid to take action. Whether it’s calling the plumber about a newly-sprung faucet leak while dressing your kids and packing your own briefcase…or changing your meticulously-planned sales pitch strategy on the fly because of a client’s last-minute request…women aren’t afraid to do what needs to be done.
“Successful women know how and when to take action,” says Milazzo. “They know that success is not about what you do when the road ahead is golden and every dip and turn smoothes your way. It’s about how you respond when you hit the biggest, nastiest roadblock of all time. By taking action every day, you develop the habits and discipline to make your vision a reality. When you focus not just on the idea but on making it happen, you stay in motion, not merely dreaming your passions but living them.”
Women aren’t afraid to ask for help. Since they were little girls, most women have automatically reached out to friends when they needed help, advice, company, or a listening ear. That impulse isn’t surprising; after all, women are usually more communal and collaborative than men. And because women have often had to fight for everything they’ve achieved in the business world, helping each other has become a common practice.
“I pioneered the industry of legal nurse consulting, so there was no one to teach me how to do what I set out to do,” says Milazzo. “Yet I didn’t feel alone. I gathered the biggest CEOs and successful business owners in the country—at least those who’d written a book—and devoured everything I could find about launching a business. I became a successful student of business strategy for life.”
Women are highly engaged. Women are the tycoons of commitment. Regardless of their profession, all women are CEOs; i.e., Chief Everything Officers. They manage careers, households, children, meals, shopping, event planning, and more—simultaneously—while doing everything in their power to make sure that not one single ball drops. The “edge” that this type of engagement gives them is a huge asset when channeled professionally. During good times it gives women extra fire, and during bad times it keeps them going when they’d rather throw in the towel.
Women are enterprising. As Milazzo has already pointed out, most women do a lot. They run a successful combination of a job, education, family, friendships, hobbies, etc. By anyone’s definition, that’s a complex enterprise! And the ability to keep multiple systems running and multiple people happy is an obvious asset to have in the workplace.
“Because women do think differently and indeed process the world differently from men, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they can take a supposed ‘lost cause’ and save it, or make an already-fantastic process or procedure even better,” Milazzo points out. “Being creative and entrepreneurial is in our DNA—just ask any woman who has managed to successfully navigate the complex world of office politics to get the promotion she deserves. Or, like me, who has started a successful business with little more than a good idea and determination!”
Women are great relationship-builders. Most women want to give their all to every relationship they have, be it with a coworker, significant other, child, family member, friend, client, etc.—and when they can’t, they often feel guilty. Our complex society of family, friends, career, and spiritual and social obligations constantly pulls us in different directions. This bombardment does lead some women to over-commit, but when tempered to a manageable scale, a natural willingness to build relationships set women up for great success today.
Women are natural multi-taskers. Chat up any group of women with a variety of talents, emotions, and intelligence and you’ll find most of them are juggling a dozen different projects, a handful of important relationships, and at least one pressing dilemma. Women excel at multi-tasking—a true leg up in a world that is constantly asking us to do more, more, more.
“Flexible and adaptable, women handle unexpected change gracefully,” says Milazzo. “We’re not thrown by 10 things hitting us at once—that won’t wreck our day. We’re wired for agility. Hand a woman an iPhone® and you turn her into a captain of high-tech industry. She’ll set appointments, answer email, snap and send photos to friends and family, update Facebook, arrange a party, make dinner reservations, and text her husband to pick up the dry cleaning. We’ve learned to bend technology to fit our needs and increase our agility for handling more complex situations at increasingly higher and faster levels.”
Women know how to collaborate. The rising use of Wikis and other collaborative software indicates the rapid acceptance of a growing need to share knowledge, ideas, and energies. Office technology has advanced to provide a platform for sharing, reviewing, editing, and completely rethinking documents or graphics. As our workforce has gone global, software has permeated the vacuum created when we are unable to meet simultaneously. And all of these things play to women’s communal natures.
“It’s only when we come together and engage in conversation that we raise new questions and think of possibilities at a collective level we would not have considered on our own,” notes Milazzo. “Collaboration is not just connecting with people. It’s also an attitude of helpfulness. Wickedly successful women know that playing nice is a sign of strength. Inside every woman is a natural collaborator. That’s a wicked advantage we have as women, an intellectual edge we can leverage for using our genius at the highest possible level.”
Women know the importance of mutual support. According to a landmark UCLA study on managing stress, the bonds women form with each other also benefit their health and longevity. The hormone oxytocin, enhanced by estrogen and released as part of their stress response, encourages them to gather with other women. The bond that forms helps to fill emotional gaps and lowers the risk of early death. Men experiencing stress go into a fight-or-flight response. Women’s broader response system may explain why they consistently outlive men.
Women understand the power of giving. In business—and life in general—the best long-term strategy isn’t to get ahead and stay ahead of everyone else. Instead, it’s to partner with others—to give everyone a piece of the pie and build up the people around you—so that everyone has an incentive to win. When you give other people a bit of advice, a word of encouragement, a few minutes of your time, or even a sought-after opportunity, you’ll usually see valuable returns.
Women know how to trust their intuition. Women’s intuition is actually a scientific fact. Women have a larger splenium of the corpus callosum which accounts for greater interconnectivity between the left and right hemispheres of their cognitive brains. Some scientists believe this broader connection enables women to access both sides faster and easier than men.
Women are not more “right-brained,” as is the myth; their brain functions are actually more holistic and generalized. Women fluently engage the limbic brain, where higher emotions are stored, and the instinctive brain, which is responsible for self-preservation. This holistic combination of emotion, instinct, and cognition equates to women’s intuition.
“I’m not saying that women are ‘better’ than men, or that men don’t have as much to offer,” Milazzo concludes. “That’s certainly not the case. What I’m saying is that as the business world comes to value collaboration, participation and relationships more and more, women are going to be able to put their natural skills to work for them. And many women are already doing just that by taking advantage of greater opportunities to insert themselves into the big picture. What better time to celebrate this progress than Women’s History Month!”
Vickie Milazzo, RN, MSN, JD, is author of the New York Times bestseller Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman. From a shotgun house in New Orleans to owner of a $16-million business, New York Times best-selling author Milazzo shares the innovative success strategies that earned her a place on the Inc. list of Top 10 Entrepreneurs and Inc. Top 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies in America.