An all-female team has just as many shortcomings as an all-male team because balance is key, speakers told The G Factor: Does gender have a language? event recently.
The event was hosted by FDM Group at its London Bridge offices. Sheila Flavell, chief operating officer at the service provider, said 25% of the workforce at FDM is female.
Speaking at the event India Gary-Martin, founder of Only Fingers and Toes, said she does not just have a “passion for women, but a passion for balance”.
Gary-Martin has previously worked as CIO at the likes of JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank. She made the decision to leave the corporate world four years ago to start her own cosmetics business, which she said has been one of the most humbling experiences of her life.
Discussing the challenges of starting her own business she said: “I started a cosmetic business and I can’t hire any men. We joke that our office is a very emotional place, as it’s all women but it’s not good that it’s all females.
"I would not advocate an all-female or all-male office.”
She said it is important companies focus what they need to do to “attract both and balance both".
"At the core of any good business is its people,” she said.
Read more about women in IT
- Inspirational female leaders offered their advice to women in technology at a We Are The City event recently.
- Over half of women in IT believe females do not occupy enough senior positions, O2 research finds.
- Record number of women in employment but women still underrepresented in IT, science and engineering.
'Systematic' and 'empathetic' in balance
Jane Cunningham, founder of Pretty Little Head, explained the difference between brands that are systematic (primarily male employees) and empathetic (primarily female employees) and the importance of balancing the two.
“Some brands are more systematic than empathetic. It’s not just people that have mental preferences, but businesses too – and systematic people means the business will leak out in your marketing which will be a 'belief in the machine' model. These businesses will tend to be self-centered and will shout about what’s great about them, instead of what will meet your needs,” she said.
“Whereas empathetic brands focus their innovation on what can be done, not what is needed. A systematic brand will say we spend all this money and we’re going to show you, but empathetic brands only show up when there is a leap in innovation for the customers need, such as Dyson, Apple and Nintendo.”
Cunningham said in big businesses the systemisers will dominate and so the empathisers need to be nurtured: “If you don’t you will find it harder to employ the empathisers and to appeal to them.”
Adrenalin vs oxytocin
She referred to an experiment in which both men and women were analysed under stressful situations. She said: “When women get stressed in the lab they didn’t have the typical fight or flight reaction, instead they release oxytocin which is known as the ‘love’ hormone. Women go for the ‘tend and befriend’ approach, which involves reaching out to others.
“Brands that really connect with women are brands that tend and befriend.”
Gary-Martin said when she worked in a corporate environment she was a systemiser, “but there was tension for me as, underneath, I’m an empathiser".
"It doesn’t mean you have to change, but you have to understand the language and how people relate to you,” she said.
Gary-Martin explained that systematic brands tend to lack the empathy needed for some women: “I run the household, whereas the men I worked with had their wives to run their household. I couldn’t take off the next day to go to Tokyo when needed.
“That was fine, because the business has to move and things need to get done, but empathy was lacking there.”
Her advice for women was: “Be clear on who you are, what you do and make sure you deliver."