Top 10 Ways to Use Your Female Advantage in Business
Catherine Kaputa, Author "The Female Brand: Using the Female Mindset to Succeed in Business"
The conventional wisdom has been that women have trouble succeeding because they don't act like men. But playing it like a man doesn't work because it brands you as tough and aggressive. And it's stupid for the most basic reason. We're not men. And that's an advantage.
It's common sense to be authentic, and it's smart branding. Your personal brand must come from who you are and what makes you tick -- including your strengths and aptitudes as a woman.
Here is my top 10 list of how to use your female aptitudes to increase your success in business:
1. Turn up your empathy quotient (EmQ)
Women are strong in empathy thanks in part to higher levels of estrogen and oxytocin. So it's no wonder that when President Obama cited "empathy" as a key factor in his selection of a Supreme Court justice, the four finalists were women.
How to leverage empathy: Be approachable and empathize with the feelings of others. People will feel understood even if you are giving them bad news! You can use empathy to build consensus around a common goal.
2. Create an appealing package
Studies show that attractive people not only make more money, they are viewed as smarter, more productive, and even kinder than others. Women have an advantage because we have more "visual packaging tools."
How to package yourself: Don't mimic the male model -- that's so 20th century. Use the French women's model: Dress like a woman and accentuate your best features. If you don't have the body of a fashion model, do something wonderful with your hair and clothing. Develop a distinctive look with a signature color, accessories and so on. Work on your posture and how you move.
3. Reach out and connect
Women have the social gene and an innate ability to build relationships and connect with people, studies show. Women are natural born networkers, team builders and relationship mavens.
How to use people power: The larger your network, the more career capital you'll have. So don't just use your people power to develop deep relationships with a few; use it to also develop a broad network of more casual acquaintances with all types of people.
4. Speak with panache
Women routinely outscore men on oral and written tests because they use both hemispheres of the brain -- left and right -- to process verbal and emotional messages.
How to use your verbal agility in the workplace: Use your verbal skills to speak up: Ask great questions and listen actively. Hone your business conversation and presentation skills. Pitch yourself for a move up or a lateral move with interesting "stories" about your past performance.
5. Be inclusive
Choosing inclusion over exclusion is a powerful female strength. In today's modern, global companies, the ability to work well with diverse groups will set you apart.
How of leverage inclusiveness: Encourage different perspectives and offer goodwill to everyone -- friends and foes. Cultivate strong alliances and be loyal.
6. Read between the lines
MRI imaging and other brain research show that women are much better at picking up subtle emotional messages than men are. Women can pick up body language and are able to detect unspoken signals of unhappiness, frustration, and confusion.
How to leverage emotional intelligence: Look beyond verbal messages to the real message people are conveying in meetings. If something feels uncomfortable or incomplete, act on your intuition and follow up with a phone call.
7. Empower others
Studies show that women tend to work together collaboratively, empowering different members of the team to contribute and accomplish tasks. So rather than seek power over others, the female leadership style seeks to empower others
How to leverage the female leadership style: Create teams and a personal "board of directors" who can advise you -- and be sure to include men too. Give public credit to other people when they contribute.
8. See the big picture
Women tend to take in various perspectives and consider a larger framework when solving a problem or making a decision, while men's style of problem solving tends to be more linear and transactional.
How to leverage big picture thinking: Use your problem-solving style to uncover risks and opportunities, and bring more creativity and innovation to your work.
9. Be likeable
Women's gifts for relationships, compassion, connection and empathy make them the more likeable gender. And let's face it, the workplace is a personality contest too, so likeability is a key factor in success.
How to leverage likeability: Smile and be positive -- as opposed to being serious and stern -- and you will win over business fans and be more influential in your work.
10. Brand yourself
Use the nine female aptitudes listed above to brand yourself for success.
Catherine Kaputa is a brand strategist, speaker and the founder of SelfBrand LLC (www.selfbrand.com), a NYC-based personal branding firm. Her newest book is "The Female Brand: Using the Female Mindset to Succeed in Business" (Davies-Black, 2009, http://www.femalebrand.com/). Her previous book, "U R a Brand! How Smart People Brand Themselves for Business Success," won the Ben Franklin Award for Best Career Book, 2007.