Why Women Mean Business: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: March 20th, 2012 by bobmorris

Why Women Mean Business: Understanding the Emergence of Our Next Economic Revolution
Avivah Wittenberg-Cox and Alison Maitland
Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint (2008)

How and why companies that are “gender bilingual” are the most highly-admired, best to work for…and the most profitable

This is one of two books written by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox that I have recently read, the other being How Women Mean Business published two years later (2010). It would be unfair to both books to suggest that one is a prequel or sequel to the other. There is much to be said for reading both, perhaps this one first, but each can – and indeed should – be judged on its own merits. At least that is the approach I now take.

In this book, Wittenberg-Cox and her co-author, Alison Maitland, state their primary objective: to explain how and why understanding the core principles and potential benefits of “womenomics” will help us to understand “the emergence of our next economic revolution.” In fact, that revolution is now underway. Its scope and depth are having an increasingly greater global impact. They suggest, and I emphatically agree, that gender is a business issue, not a “women’s issue,” as the same can also be said of parental (not maternal) rights, IT, results-driven management, process simplification, performance measurement, and onboarding. Over time, let’s all hope and then work to ensure, a term such as “womenomics” will become obsolete, perhaps even quaint, as men as well as women derive increasingly greater benefits from equal opportunity that has everything to do with merit and absolutely nothing to do with anything else.

Centuries ago, two metaphors emerged and have since become influential: the “crucible” and “the melting pot.” Sometimes both have been invoked in a discussion of how immigrants “melt” into their new culture in the United States, as Crevecoeur describes it in his Letters from an American Farmer (1782). I rejected the concept of a melting pot when I first encountered a lengthy discussion of it in 1970, in Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s Beyond the Melting Pot. Then and now, I much prefer others, notably the salad or better yet, the symphony, and certainly much prefer those metaphors when acknowledging the diversity among women and men and when affirming the great value of such diversity. Differences between and among people should not separate them; rather, they should enrich and strengthen them.

Throughout their lively and eloquent narrative, Wittenberg-Cox and Maitland examine a range of major challenges, opportunities and issues. Just in Chapter One (“Womenomics”) alone, they explain

o  what “womenomics” means…and the benefits it could provide
o  Why women are “guarantors of growth”
o  How organizations and individuals can be come “gender-bilingual”
o  The cost of not being “gender-bilingual”
o The nature and extent of economic impact of three 21st century forces (i.e. weather, women, and the worldwide web)

There is also an abundance of valuable information, insights, and wisdom in each of the other chapters.

They also make brilliant use of several reader-friendly devices. For example, “Tips” on recruiting women Page 47), promoting women (67), tapping into the female market (100), and managing gender differences (127). She also provides 11 mini-case studies, six of them in Chapter Five (“Seven Steps to Successful Implementation”): Hands-on Experience, Role Reversal, Opening eyes, Lloyds TSB’s multi-pronged approach, Schlumberger: A bold new approach to gender, and Bain & Company: Women hold the key, but men control the lock. The focus of all this material is on what can be learned from real people in real situations as they struggle to formulate and then implement programs and related initiatives to achieve “gender-bilingual” fluency.

The revolution to which Wittenberg-Cox and Maitland frequently refer offers almost unlimited opportunities to those who – regardless of gender – really do “mean business” in terms of principles as well as profits…non-negotiable values as well as adding value to the customers they are privileged to serve. It is by no means a coincidence: companies that are “gender bilingual” are the most highly-admired, best to work for…and yes, inevitably, they are also the most profitable.

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out How Women Mean Business as well as Neil Howe’s The Fourth Turning and Rebecca Costa’s The Watchman’s Rattle.

 

 

 

 

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