Photo: Fox

6 ways women entrepreneurs work differently

The actions of women entrepreneurs in management are influenced by two things. First, you have biases from cultural and social​ influences that set expectations on how each of us should behave.

Secondly, there is the factor of confidence and this is a personal issue. The input of women and their perspective has not been include as much in developing ideas around management. This means even if you’re a well trained woman, you end up being strained doing things that are not inherent to you.

Good news is that this is one of the several reasons that another look is being taken on management theories. Honestly, most of the them are simply wrong or don’t belong in our business environment today. We were brave enough to actually attack the concept of brand.

As a woman, you would benefit a lot from new thinking on management. One reason I can think​ of is that you would deal with negative stereotypes by flipping them, through context, to have positive meaning.

We had a look on findings from reputable bodies, like Kauffman Foundation, and confirmed that there are differences between how men and women entrepreneurs operate.

These differences should be celebrated and seen as complementary to building good performing business. After all, what these studies led us to conclude is that the ability in management between your typical Kenyan man and Kenyan woman is the same save for the difference in how each approached situations before them.

Here are the 6 ways we found women entrepreneurs to be different even if outliers would be expected:

1. Transformational vs Transactional

You had the opportunity a few days back to reveal to us your management style. Every one has their own way of doing things. That said, it is found that women entrepreneurs will bias towards transformational leadership. Women will opt to influence their employees to see business goals as if they were their own personal goals. This is because they focus on building cohesion in their teams, which leads to high commitment. Conversely, men tend to go for transactional leadership which is about using rewards (and punishments) to draw performance.Transformational leadership is about “leading not over-managing.”

2. Inductive vs Deductive

Barbara Annis, CEO of Gender Intelligence Group (GIG), in her collaborative work finds that women entrepreneurs will approach things through inductive reasoning or the bottom-up approach in most circumstances, compared to men. Women prefer to gather data and opinion and analyze them to form conclusions. It can be slow for decision-making but it’s good for flexibility. Men go deductive by forming conclusions first and shaping evidence around them. Read our article on top-down and bottom-up approaches to find out when each of these two ways of thinking is good and when it’s a disadvantage.

3. Interpersonal skills

“Don’t mix business and friendship…Crunch your numbers and go home” These are some of the old school stuff taught about management. We now know that employees have different aspirations and motivational factors. As a woman, why would you not use your strength of interpersonal skills to get ahead? The Commonwealth conducted a study in 2013 and found that women are better at picking and responding to non-verbal cues. Beyond that, women’s communication style promoted emotional expression, emphasis on employee needs and developing productive relationships. Communication is a strong asset in management and you shouldn’t shy from exploiting your interpersonal skills on this one. Going by the studies, men don’t go much beyond “You give, I take” in operating their businesses.

4. Participation

Barbara Annis also concluded, through research, that women place far less importance on rigid structures like hierachy in business and encourage participation from employees in problem solving. Women also describe what they want done and give room for expression or definition (depending on how you see it) rather than prescribe what must be done. For many, this would come across as weak leadership but research now shows it’s just a quirk of one of the two genders. Annis found that men will go as far as pit ideas presented to them against worst-case scenarios since even their collaborations remain competitive in nature. Of course, each approach has advantages and disadvantages.

5. Experience

Women entrepreneurs tend to place a lot of importance on prior experience with regards to work around them. Even in starting a growth-oriented business, they are likely to hesitate before acquiring experience through administrative roles or working in the industry of interest. This is one of the reasons they give a lot more credit on their accomplishments to their support systems and networks. But lack of experience can be bypassed by training or seeking knowledge to grow as you go.

6. Holistic

We made our attempt to answer whether it’s true that women are in fact risk averse, as they say. Yeah, you can read. This perception is because we are reductive on how we measure success. For instance, we will look at someone build a business empire or rake in bills but ignore their personal life or mental health. Women show greater appreciation for an all-round approach in balancing life and work but this “sacrifice” can hamper progression in the corporate world. This is a reason why women are missing in the highest levels of corporate administration (at least on 50-50 basis). This bias for a holistic view also sees women favor multi-role working – like this super busy social entrepreneur – for both themselves and their employees.

These differences on how women entrepreneurs operate differently are not an indictment on them or on men entrepreneurs. It’s to encourage you look at management (and everything, actually) through different lenses. The goals of securing working capital and having an adaptable business, for example, don’t change.

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