We live in an exciting time – a time where individuals have the power to spread ideas and to influence others. And, despite technology having broken down traditional power structures and given voices to individuals, our institutions still lack diversity – especially when it comes to the gender of those who are sharing their thoughts and ideas from the top.
A recent Harvard research study (which was conducted with thousands of respondents from 13 countries) revealed that two-thirds of survey respondents felt that “the world would be a better place if men thought more like women.” When exploring what “thinking like women” actually meant to these professionals, capabilities like futures thinking, expressiveness, and intuition arose repeatedly. These, as we know, are also qualities that are associated with innovative leaders (both male and female).
This is not to say that all women have these qualities, but rather suggests that developing qualities that are primarily associated with women should be better integrated into our professional practices. A feminine way of thinking is about bringing empathy and humility into every decision we make, both in the boardroom and beyond – and that is not, and should not be, limited to women.
As strategists, our job is to find opportunities and to make decisions. Every decision we make not only has an impact on our business, but also influences our employees, customers, and competitors. By asking ourselves what the impact of our work will be on each of these groups in a month, a year, and 10 years from now, we push ourselves to make decisions that are more holistic in nature and to ground ourselves in seeing beyond immediate need or crisis. This is where futures thinking can be a useful tool in making sound decisions that provide mutual benefit to all stakeholders.
Expressiveness is another feminine quality that is often seen as a weakness for people in power. We’re not encouraged to express our feelings or our thoughts openly in the corporate world. And yet, women have made substantial progress in the past decades in getting closer to where they should be, both socially and professionally; they’re more vocal and proactive in sharing with and educating others about what is important for them and how they should be treated. More recently, many men from around the world have joined the #metoo movement to support their colleagues, friends, and family members who are leaving their comfort zones and sharing stories about harassment and abuse. These men and women have harnessed their feminine qualities of expressiveness and openness to ensure that future generations will not go through the same experiences.
Lastly: intuition. Perhaps the most powerful tool we have in navigating the challenging and ambiguous times in which we live, intuition is often overlooked and underappreciated in the world of business. As it’s hard to codify intuition, it often gets disregarded or seen as a something that noncommittal people use to back up their ideas or feelings. But the science of intuition has become one of the most popular areas of psychology, thanks to its strong correlation to the accuracy and speed required in decision-making. Defined as “the power or faculty of attaining direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference,” intuition is seen as a soft quality that is (all too often) associated just with women. Being able to measure intuition on a physiological level will help us create means and tactics to foster intuitive thinking within anyone, regardless of whether they’re a man or a woman, and to ultimately leverage it strategically within business contexts.
So far, 2018 is off to a great start in this space. We are making greater strides than ever before, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Events like the Women in Strategy Summit hosted by Innovation Enterprise are helping business leaders make crucial progress and are paving the way toward connecting institutions to our feminine side – which, ultimately, will also make them more human.