Women, Business and "Girl Games"


There’s a wonderful scene in the TomHanks film “A League of Their Own” where the baseball team manager (Hanks)berates the performance of one of the members of this all-women team and shestarts to cry.  He looks at her indisbelief and says, “You’re crying? There’s no crying in baseball!”

Welcome to the world of women,business and the reality and perception of “girl games.”

Even all these years after womenhave taken their place in the business firmament – building businesses of theirown, moving to the upper echelons of organizations around the world – there isstill a concern among many men that women’s behavior in organizations is aproblem.  It just doesn’t fit.  It makes them uncomfortable.

So, let’s take a look at this largerpicture to see where the concerns come from.  Then, in forthcoming posts, we’ll take a look at thebehaviors and what you need to know.

To be fair to the men – and at therisk of sounding terribly sexist to the women reading this – from a Westernsocialization perspective, organizations are male animals.

Men are focused and linear.  They tend to go in one direction and –unless forced to look at other ways of doing things – they keep going exactlythat way.  While there may be a‘team’ orientation, within that team is an individual level of competition andcredit-taking that supersedes any focus on a ‘greater good.’

Having said that, it’s not thatwomen bring “softer” skills to the organization (although some do).  It’s that we simply look at thingsdifferently.

We can be just as focused, but oursocialization is to be simultaneously looking at the context within which weare focusing.

We can be linear, but because we’resocialized to be inclusive, there is more give and take as well as ideageneration and sharing – not least because we tend not to take individualcredit for what is achieved.

As a result, women are more orientedtoward internal and external win-win outcomes than men – because, unlike in allthe sports metaphors where, underlying everything, there’s always a clearwinner and loser – women work to ensure that everyone feels part of the win.

In part, that’s why there’s evenresearch that shows that the profit margins of female-owned and run organizations are not as high as those run by men.

It’s not that the organizationsaren’t performing as well.  It’sthat they perform differently – because the women running them have a differentset of goals and a very different definition of “success” than their malecounterparts.

Yet, those “girl games” do stillexist.  In most cases not becauseof some malicious intent – but, again, because of the difference insocialization.

It’s not just about crying inbaseball.  Or anywhere else forthat matter.  (In fact, the worstperpetrator of crying with intent that I’ve ever known was a male seniorexecutive.)

It’s that women do behave differently thanmen (which we know) but when we do so inside an organization, a completelydifferent interpretation of those behaviors arise – which hurts the women nowin place as well as their successors.

Take a look at your organization tosee how “male” versus “female” its orientation.  Then, take a look at your own behaviors and assess theextent they are being used to define you and your prospects.

It may not be a pretty picture, butit certainly opens the door for a lot of new options for you to consider –whether in your current position or starting an organization of your own.

(This article was originally published on Technorati.)