The power of the female perspective

Written by
Inge Woudstra

21 Sep 2015

21 Sep 2015 • by Inge Woudstra

Leveraging female talent

Men and women are different. However, in organisations these differences are usually ignored. After all, no one would like to suggest women might be less capable than men.

As a result some of the vital talents that women bring are not recognised and not fully utilised and organisations miss out on simple ways to massively improve output.

To make matters worse, women themselves are less likely than men to draw attention to those talents, and if they do … their views are more often ignored or even pushed aside!

HR practitioners need to be more aware of these differences and ensure talents – including female talents – are fully developed and utilised. 

Picking up signals

The first talent that women usually bring originates from a difference in biology and neurology. When in meetings women pick up different signals than men. In fact, women pick up different signals in every situation.

That is because women’s eyes see differently from men’s eyes. The retina contains two types of photo receptors: rods and cones. The cones are colour-sensitive, whereas the rods are there for night vision, motion detection, and peripheral vision. Men have a higher percentage of those rods, and women have a higher percentage of cones. But that’s not the only difference. Men and women also have a different distribution of cells that regulate and interpret the signals that come in from the retina, and the way the virtual cortex than processes the interpretation of those signals is different as well.

Interestingly there are similar differences to the olfactory and hearing system. It seems likely that women and men therefor actually see and hear very different things. 

Processing and using emotions

The second talent that women often bring comes from neuroscience. It is known that the limbic system – the part of the brain where emotions are processed – is more developed in the female brain than in the male. In women there is more blood flow through the limbic system and, when at rest, there is more activity. The limbic system is thought to be primarily responsible for our emotional life, and has a lot to do with the formation of memories.

It appears that it is easier for women to process emotions, and women use them more readily when making sense of a situation. 

Business impact

So women pick up different signals and process emotions differently. That means that in business meetings and interactions women will most likely see the same situation very differently, and they could have vital insights and information that men do not have. 

Interpreting situations and taking decisions without inviting the view of women is like drawing conclusions about the moon after seeing just one side of it.

Therefore it is vital that organisations make sure women’s views are included in conversations and decision-making. That way the skills of the entire team, both male and female are fully utilised and new insights can emerge. 

Gender smart HR practitioners tips to make a difference

  • Promote knowledge of gender difference at work
  • Encourage mixed gender teams
  • Encourage a culture in which (male and female) leaders are expected to actively invite a wide range of views
  • Increase women’s confidence to speak up and share their views 

Gender smart women tips for success

  • Your view needs to be heard to inform appropriate decisions. It is vital that you speak up. Other people really have not seen, heard or felt what you have.
  • Be confident in your views, especially if they are different from those of the men around you
  • There is no need to hesitate, you are probably right
  • Find ways to speak up so you can be heard. Experiment with framing your views in different ways and finding informal channels