Business Technology - Do Women Do Things Differently?

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In this very interesting article from Lucy Thorpe, Head of content and social media at female founded tech company In Cloud Solutions, a WEConnect International certified women's business enterprise, she asks if women are really so different from men when it comes to getting things done.
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“This is going to be funny” say the guys in the office. “Have you tried turning off the caps lock?”

My experience at work the other day shows that assumptions about women’s IT skills are still rife despite the fact that much has been done in the last decade to encourage more women to take up jobs in STEM. Casual assumptions about women’s IT skills are gradually edging their way out along with outdated views about women in finance and other jobs assumed to be male only preserves.

We come into contact with a wide range of female decision makers in our work selling business software solutions but the fact remains that the further up the leadership chain you go, the more likely the office holders are to be men.

There are just six female CEOs running FTSE 100 firm (dwindling to five when Kingfisher's Véronique Laury steps down), with average earnings at just over half of their male equivalents. Widen this out to FTSE 350 companies and just 12 businesses – have female CEOs. The global pay gap will take more than 200 years to close.

The number of women in important IT and technology roles has always been dramatically lower than that of men. Employers try their best to change that but there seems to be a lack of women entering the tech sector. According to www.womenintech.co.uk the current stats aren’t particularly optimistic. Only one in six tech specialists in the UK are women, only one in ten are IT leaders.

But what lies behind these figures? Do the women who have made it into top roles do business differently to their male counterparts and is their attitude to business tech any different to men’s?

Par Excellence magazine reckons that women business owners do take a different approach, typically buying and using technology as a way to help them multi-task and be more efficient. The suggestion seems to be that men are looking for a solution that promises a direct effect on the bottom line.

For Sarah Turner CEO of Angel Academe, an angel investment network the difference lies in communications. In a recent interview she said:

“I do think that we communicate differently from men so it’s helpful to have people in the room that communicate in diverse ways. I think that as women we are conscious of the bits we don’t know so we are likely to ask other people for advice whereas men may wing it. When we bring men and women together, we create more diverse environments with different ways of decision-making.”

Cheryl Avery, who holds a senior post in procurement in the Ministry of Justice has commented that she believes there are real differences in working styles between female and male colleagues. If men have a task to do, they will get it done.

“They are more methodical in their approach and some of the softer skills may not be at the top of their priority.”

She thinks that while women are equally focused on getting the job done they can also take people on a journey using emotional intelligence to get them to where they need to be.

It’s not uncommon to believe that Emotional Intelligence plays more to women’s strengths than men with its focus on qualities like empathy and communication. But the whole thing can get mired in cliché; men see hierarchies where women see relationships - men are goal oriented while women are about process, men try to avoid failure where women see an opportunity to learn.

But in reality both ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ elements are being embraced by both genders and leadership styles vary hugely across the board. Having said that we have seen some impressive results in technology projects when leaders have deployed soft skills including enthusiasm, empathy and even humour – and interestingly the project I am thinking of was led by a man.

There is no question that technology is very male dominated and sometimes you will be the only woman in the room. Our female founders Caroline Atkinson and Liz Matraves advise being well armed with the facts and confident of your ground – with those in place there is no reason not be as credible as the next man. Caroline says:

“In my experience of selling in today’s marketplace women don’t take a massively different attitude to purchasing technology. I think maybe women are less likely to be impressed by tricks and gizmos. The female Finance Directors I meet are very focussed on getting the tasks done in the most efficient way possible.”

In fact when one of our clients took over the FD role at a Telecoms Company she knew straight away that she was not getting the information she needed. She wanted insights into the company’s projects that just weren’t there. Some investigation revealed that her existing technology was more than capable of giving her what she wanted – it just hadn’t been set up in the right way. Instead of junking the entire thing and starting again she called us in to help. Her pragmatic approach meant she could get the required insights from existing technology at a fraction of the cost.

But whatever we can achieve as women on our own, there is a strong argument for welcoming male advocates. Bill Proudman, CEO of a group called White Men as Full Diversity Partners, says men in the workplace are like fish in a fishbowl. In a blog for Women in Technology he says:

“The hard work for men is noticing and acknowledging that we have a distinct culture that is often the dominant one in most organisations and that that culture impacts everyone’s behaviour. Like fish who never have to leave the fishbowl, we don't see our own culture. We are surrounded by it, especially at work.”

As more women come into leadership positions, the water in that fishbowl gets shaken up and that’s when we can really start to work together to confront the business challenges that lie ahead.
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If you would like to know more about how In Cloud Solutions uses business technology to increase efficiency AND profits then please give them a call on 01628 876723 or visit their website www.incloudsolutions.co.uk

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