A few weeks ago, the first women ever was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics*, Elinor Ostrom. Usually I don't bother reading about the rationale behind the Prize, but in this case I was curious. Would her work be different than what we've seen before in economics? Would she bring something new to the very testosterone-filled Nobel Laureates table?
Before I break the nerve-wracking tension on that one, let's just go back to the question: Is there a feminine way of doing business?
When I began putting the material together for my coaching & business program "The Heroine's Journey," I had already coached entrepreneurs in general, and women entrepreneurs in particular for many years. I thought I had most of it nailed down. What I realized through my research is that the business fundamentals are the same for women and men. Accounting is still accounting. Landing a new account or closing a sale is still the same. Numbers don't cater to gender. BUT, what I came to understand is that while the WHAT is not different, the HOW, and the WHY are. Let's start with the WHY.
Women don't start companies for the same reason men do. Women start businesses as an expression of themselves, as a way to balance family and work, and to be able to be their own bosses. Men start businesses to make money, or because they have an idea (that they believe they can make money on).**
The WHY is worthy of its own article, which I will post in a few weeks. Today I want to focus on the HOW. Do women run businesses differently than men?
If I start a business to make money, my primary goal will be to make as much money as possible. Hence, anything that detracts me from my primary goal will be a problem. Such as for example, creating a business that also is sustainable from a planetary perspective, since I will have to sacrifice some of the potential profits. But if I start a business to create an expression of myself, or find a way to balance work and family, my primary goal will be self-expression, or life-work balance. And if I start a business to make positive change, it's the change that is my primary objective, not making money. This would explain why women traditionally have made less money through their businesses. Their primary objectives are different.
It's obvious that we need both. We won't survive long-term without creating more sustainable business practices that also are built on an underlying ethical foundation. Yet businesses can't survive without having a strong profit-making focus either.
Here I come back to Elinor Ostrom and her findings. Ms Ostrom discovered that people who join together for a long-term goal where their livelihood is at stake, say for example preserving a forest in a developing country, create more efficient social control mechanisms than when individual property owners are asked to do the same. She showed the power of the collective to make choices that are good for everyone, including the planet, which was why she was awarded the Nobel Prize.
What's most important about Ms Ostrom's findings is that she brought a new perspective on decision-making and challenged some of the existing notions on what can bring the most efficient results. And here we have the answer to my question above:
Yes, there is a feminine way of doing business. We have a different rationale for starting a business. And because we are different, we also bring in new perspectives. More often than not these perspectives are more long-term, more inclusive and more responsive to all stakeholders, not only catering to the shareholders. Research also shows that women adapt better to new situations, make better decisions, make better leaders and invest their money more wisely. And this is the reason why we need women to become entrepreneurs -- to create a better world. Women bring new perspectives and new solutions to the table. Since money equals power and businesses wield a lot of that power, more women need to start and build successful businesses!
*The prize was shared with a man, Oliver E Williamson.
** See research from SBA, Kaufman Foundation and Catalyst.
Lotta Alsén teaches women entrepreneurs how to make more money, awaken their inner powers and change their world. She has a MSc in International Economics, is
a social entrepreneur, business & success coach and author. Read more at http://www.quickenings.com or follow her blog at http://quickenings.typepad.com