Why Women Mean Business: Understanding the Emergence of our Next Economic Revolution

…is a book by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox and Alison Maitland (2008).  The UBC Sauder School of Business; Borden, Ladner, Gervais; RBC; and, WomenOnBoard pulled together to present the 2009 Women on Board Forum:  Transforming Corporate Culture.

Everybody seemed to pick this week to host a Forum or Conference.  So I only managed to attend the first part of the Forum — but I did catch the intriguing presentation by the first author of this book, Avivah Wittenberg-Cox.  I had planned to leave earlier (feeling conference overload) but her presentation held me.

Avivah is a Canadian living and working in Paris (envy).  She is the CEO of 20-First, a company that works with progressive companies interested in diversifying their leadership teams and optimizing both halves of the talent pool and both halves of the market — the female and male halves (this from the bio).

I have never been much for focusing only on women — women-only events, women’s business networks and so on.  It was so great to listen to somebody  intimately engaged in this area who offered gems like (and I am paraphrasing from my notes):

  • The world is moving from the image of pyramids (hierarchical) to the image of the pomegranite (when you view it cut in half) — decentralized and networked.
  • It isn’t really about getting more women on boards, it is about getting more women in executive positions — then the board balance will happen.
  • It’s not a women’s issue — it is an economic issue.  Re-frame it around the 3 W’s:  the web (technology); women (arrival of women and their economic roles especially as consumers (lots of evidence is Sept’s Harvard Business Review’s feature on The Female Economy)); and, Weather (climate change/sustainability).
  • What is importance is the correlation between gender balance and a better bottom line.
  • Stop talking about “fixing women” — somehow there is an assumption that we need tips and lots of help.  Avivah is saying that we need to turn the question around:  What is wrong with companies that can’t retain or attract women?
  • Women and men are different — don’t try to treat them the same.  We need to recognize the differences.

There was a ton of info in her talk.  It hopefully was video-taped — but I can point you to her book (thanks to RBC all attendees got a copy) which I haven’t read yet but look forward to doing so.

It makes me wonder about our business education globally.  Given our gender balance in business schools — what is the language we use?  How do we discuss this issue?  Is it even on the table?

I guess I had better find out!

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