Women Bring Their Own Style to the Startup World

Women Bring Their Own Style to the Startup World



Do you think men make better entrepreneurs than women?  Why?  I did some research on this subject a while back and found some interesting perspectives.  While everyone seems to agree that women think differently, and run their businesses differently, than men, there is a lot less agreement on which styles are better or worse.

First of all, it is evident that there are far fewer women entrepreneurs today than men.  According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, last year marked a new high for female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies, but the percentage of big companies run by women is still less than 4%.  In startups and small companies, the numbers are much better, but still estimated to be below 25%.

Yet, according to a study by the Center for Women’s Business Research, the number of female-run firms is growing twice as fast as the rest, so women are catching up.  The latest big-company addition was Ginni Rometty, who was promoted into both top titles at IBM in 2012.

Going back to how entrepreneurial styles differ between the sexes, here are some observations I found from various sources that describe each style, not necessarily claiming one better or worse than the other.

1. Leadership style.  There are clear differences between males and females in their management and leadership styles, probably a reflection of their genetics.  Distinguishing traits of male leaders include autonomy, independence and competition, while traits for women include relations, interdependence and cooperation.  Both have their advantages.
2. Operational style.  For operational purposes, men move quicker, are more analytical, more focused and concentrate more on the short-term and on rules.  In contrast, women generally gather more data, consider their context, think more long-term and also rely on their intuitive and sympathizing characteristics.  No comment on which is better.
3. Organizational style.  Status and rank are important for men, whereas women are more comfortable working in a flat hierarchy.  The structure preferred by males resembles a hierarchy or pyramid, where authority stems from one’s position within the hierarchy, and more emphasis is placed on goals and objectives rather than on the process.
4. Business relationship style.  For men, business relationships are more competitive, and power is enhanced through control of information, which may be hoarded rather than shared.  Women have larger social networks, for advice and resources, and relationships with other businesswomen are more nurturing than they are competitive.
5. Emotional style.  The biggest surprise for me was the finding that men seek larger “emotional” networks – the complex of associations that provide warmth, praise and encouragement.  Also men tend to show more emotion in business than women do, but as a form of domination and intimidation.
6. Investment style.  Most of the venture capitalists and angel investors I know are male.  Women seem to network for the sake of relationships, and they will invest in support of these relationships, but have less interest in business opportunity investments.  Men network for the sake of utility.
7. Motivational style.  According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, women’s self-image seldom includes entrepreneurship.  Women are more likely motivated to pursue a startup career to help balance family and career, while men are more likely motivated by wealth accumulation and career advancement.

We know, of course, that in the real world, it all comes down to the individual, not how many X chromosomes are inherit in his or her DNA.  As I contemplate the differences in the styles listed above, it seems that they are in fact complementary – yin and yang – like masculine and feminine, rather than right or wrong.  These days, societal trends actually seem to be favoring women.

The implication is that entrepreneurs of either sex would do well to find a business partner of the opposite gender, capitalizing on that other dimension, rather than engaging in a battle of the sexes.  Wars are no fun for either side.

Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: CC by Donnie Nunley


About the author: Martin Zwilling

Martin is the CEO & Founder of Startup Professionals, Inc., a consultancy focused on assisting entrepreneurs with mentoring, business strategy and planning, and networking.

Martin for years has provided entrepreneurs with first-hand advice, mentoring and business plan assistance as a startup consultant. He has a unique combination of business and high-tech experience, and executive mentoring and connecting startups with potential investors, board members, and service providers.

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