As seen on the pages of The Wall Street Journal recently in the form of adverts:
- Barclays Capital congratulates its 72 newly promoted Managing Directors, 8 of which are women -- 11%.
- Lehman Brothers congratulates its 158 newly promoted Managing Directors, 21 of which are women -- a little over 13%.
This is not going to be a conversation about why these organizations and many others have so few women in their top ranks, a subject visited by many over the years. I jotted down the information because I am often searching for answers on how modern organizations can more fully build on the talents and voices of all their people.
I'd like to interrogate the reality of thinking like a woman by visiting with Italian writer Margaret Mazzantini, winner of the prestigious Strega Prize in 2002 for her novel Don't Move. The prize is the highest recognition for the best work of prose fiction by an Italian author. The book, which has sold more than 1 million copies -- Umberto Eco is at this level of success, for example -- has since been made into a movie directed by Sergio Castellito, Mazzantini's husband.
It's the story of a tragic romance a surgeon confesses to his comatose fifteen-year old daughter. Italian actress and novelist Mazzantini plays with the choices people make as they construct narratives, especially what they remember and tell in times of crisis. Both the book and movie have received very passionate reviews from both ends of the spectrum, very little in between.
I'm interested in Mazzantini's linguistic choices as she represents life stories. They reveal much of the way of thinking and seeing reality as a woman -- daughter, mother, and wife, etc. [The translations that follow are all mine.] "My gaze," she says, "is always directed to the human dimension, I see its depth."
- Living success is like a very long caress -- Mazzantini's ambition is for everyone to read her work, that's why she was thrilled recently when she discovered that the paperback edition of her famous book was available for 5 Euros. A democratic and all-inclusive way of thinking.
The corporate question: why are you losing this golden opportunity to share in your success with a group of businesspeople who are so attuned with the new reality of work? Empathy, learning nets of support, ability to juggle multiple projects with equal attention levels, perception, intuition, emotion, I could go on.
- Being close to people is better than being recognized -- when asked what she was most interested in, she replied that it was mixing up with the world. Piling up in crowded buses and talking to a homeless person are preferable to people pointing her out on the street. In her books, Mazzantini "goes down to hell with her characters and returns after having saved herself along with them."
The corporate question: how can you afford to stay with the tried and true when your market is something brand new? Your customers are demanding attention, they want to talk with you, they want to engage with your brands, they want to help you make your products and thinking better.
- Letting things emerge -- a writer writes by observing, that's when they perceive the things of the world so they can write about them. By creating the space to do nothing in life, we give ourselves to the possibility that answers emerge spontaneously. If we deny this possibility, then our life may become one of regret and dissatisfaction.
The corporate question: when you're looking around your boardroom and meeting room what do you see? When you think about your marketplace what do you see? Do you take the time to look and let what you see inform your thinking?
"It takes courage to love. Love today is a battle of an individual against themselves, something that throws you far away from your self... that is capable of throwing your whole existence upside down. Who wants to risk that?"
Women -- businesspeople, consumers, stakeholders, advisors, etc. -- are looking for places in life to make a difference and they will find it. Behind their power there is formidable depth. If we probe a little on peak performers, we discover that they often are families, not teams. Families unleash and inspire, they provide a clear competitive advantage: they are inclusive, they form strong ties, and they allow individuals the freedom to express their creative genius.
Families have shared sayings, feelings, belongings and doings. They are much more than teams in that. Now let's use the "she" more often, shall we?