Business: Is it still a Man’s World?
By Antony Le
This Los Angeles Times Op-ed piece by John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio examines a shift in the way business is conducted today: from a “masculine” way of doing business to a more “feminine” way. (Click here to see full article) They state that businesses (and the individuals that run them) are more successful when employing feminine traits, such as being “communicative, reasonable, flexible, and patient.” Now, immediately one (especially a man) might react quite negatively towards this. I, as a male, would certainly like to think that I’m a good communicator. I’m reasonable, I’m flexible (both personality-wise as well as physically for that matter…), and I am very patient! In fact, I haven’t honked or swore at anybody on the road for at least 24 hours! I kid, of course…
So, this article examines the differences between how men and women behave in the business world, as well as in their personal lives. But before we start calling the authors sexists, and “traitors” to the brotherhood, it’s important to note that we are talking about general traits and tendencies. It does not attempt to define all classes of men and women.
On average, there are indeed differences between men and women, just as there are differences between people of different cultures, or generational differences (e.g., Gen Y versus Baby Boomers). In my opinion, it would be naïve to believe that every person is the same: no body is the same. When an individual is raised from birth, they are raised in an environment that will greatly affect who they are.
For example, as a marketer I am always looking at consumer products quite closely. When I’m looking at toys at the Wal-Mart or Toys “R” Us, these are the typical types of boys’ toys I see: blue toys, cars and trucks, tools, and action figures of super heroes and wrestlers. What do I see when I look down the aisle of girls’ toys? Rows of PINK: there’s ballerina tutus, ponies, princess dresses, Barbie dolls with fashion accessories, and even little plastic babies that really cry and pee! The latter example still amazes me: young tots as young as four years old are already being conditioned to nurture and care for another being. On the other hand, boys are being conditioned to race cars and fight evil. Could this possibly result in adult men who are more competitive and aggressive? Perhaps.
Where these differences between men and women have originated from, this article does not focus on. But my point here is that if boys and girls are growing up in different environments, and being treated differently since birth, it makes absolute sense that they will grow up to become adults with apparent differences in personalities.
So, men and women are the not the same. Duh! So what does this mean for us in the business world? Well, the authors conducted a survey of 40,000 people to represent the majority of consumers around the world. What they found is that consumers are in line with this philosophy of doing business: more consumers (over 2 to 1) desire traits that they term “feminine” over “masculine”. Companies, both large and small, have already experienced success by listening to their customers and by running a company built on trust. Target and Ford are examples of large corporations, but smaller companies are finding success also. Whipcar is a service company in London that connects car owners with individuals looking to rent a car for just a few hours or days. Even though screen checks are performed and renters are insured, the business is primarily built on trust. And as the authors state, they are “growing like gangbusters”. (Gerzema & D’Antonio, 2012)
To be a successful businessperson does not rely on one’s gender. But the successful entrepreneurs will be the ones who are cognizant of changing consumer demands. It is often easier to fill demand, than to create demand. As consumers, we all want more transparency and to build long-lasting trust with our business partners. Furthermore, with the advances in technology everybody is a journalist, a news reporters, or a critic. With social media channels such as YouTube and even WordPress, corporations can’t rely on sneaky tricks and tactics that might have been successful in the past.
In today’s world, consumers are becoming smarter, more aware, and demanding much more. Whether it’s feminine traits, foods free of fillers and pesticides, or shoes not made in sweatshops, consumers just want to be treated with respect and dignity. That means being open and transparent, and just having a genuine interest in the well-being of the end consumer. As successful marketers, let’s be sure to meet these demands. I know I will.
Gerzema, J., & D’Antonio, M. (2012, May 11). Want to succeed in business? call mom. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-dantonio-business-mothers-day-innovation-20120511,0,266168.story
(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.charteredbanker.com/MainWebSite/Resources/Image/Its a mans world.jpg