Our Y Factor

Women in Leadership – Are We Wired to Lead?

Women in leadership roles, particularly within tech, are making headlines every day. Tech titan Sheryl Sandberg encourages us to Lean In to our ambitions while Spiritual Politico Ariana Huffington shows us how to Thrive in our technology-addicted world. But are women biologically wired to be leaders in the digital age? Scientific evidence suggests we were born for it.

Women are natural communicators

According to research, the average woman speaks about 20,000 words per day, while the average man utters about 7,000. Additionally, girls start out with better language skills than boys, according to Science Magazine. While male writers still dominate in traditional publishing, females are taking the lead in authoring blogs, and some of the most popular blogs to boot. There is an estimated 19 million female bloggers online, covering a wide swath of categories, including parenting, food, entertainment, DIY and fashion. There are even storyteller bloggers who have turned their way with words into a cushy work-from-anywhere job. And the location-independent flexibility of online writing helps women strike the work-life balance that is so elusive in the corporate world.

Women are circular; men are hierarchical

In The Female Advantage, Sally Hegelsen studies a large group of male and female leaders and finds that most of the men structure their organizations in a hierarchical way, whereas women create web-like, circular structures. This interconnectedness helps facilitate rapid idea sharing that spreads outward, rather than from the top down. Malcolm Gladwell wrote about this very behavior in The Tipping Point, explaining how an idea can spread like an epidemic once it hits critical mass. This is the crux of social media. When a small percentage of the population can spread an idea rapidly, it’s a social epidemic, or as we call it, “going viral”.

Women grasp this idea more readily. We tend to use conversation to build trust, to identify similarities, find solutions to problems and create affiliations, all critical in consumer messaging. Twitter parties, Facebook Q&A’s, global Google Hangout events and our “aspiration addiction” to Pinterest are all fueled by web-like communication and sharing that is innate to women.

Women are wired to care more than compete

I believe the best use of, and quite possibly the future of, social media and the web is to bring awareness to social causes. Sure, there are the “slacktivists” who lazily Like a Facebook post or RT a Tweet and feel they’ve performed some civil duty. But we’ve also seen how creative marketing, innovative development and authentic messaging can galvanize small groups of people to affect big social change. Take, for instance, Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s 21 Day Meditation Challenge, Kony 2012 and Dana.io. Each very different approaches to bringing global awareness, but each leveraging the power of technology to communicate a universal message and create a supportive structure for the betterment of our world. Certainly, these endeavors are not isolated to women! It will take all of us to raise awareness and shift our consciousness, but women have a unique advantage in this space because we tend to view situations holistically and are more likely to create communities of support rather than cultures fueled by competition.

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