The coronavirus crisis is a wake-up call. It’s waking us up to what we need to pay attention to in order to live sustainable, healthy lives on this planet. It’s waking us up to the global leadership and cooperation that’s required to ensure our human survival. And it’s highlighting how the female brain is highly adapted to the actions that are needed — right now.
Across the globe, we’re witnessing shining examples of women leading nations through this crisis (here’s to you, Germany and New Zealand) and instances of the worst kind of dominant male behavior here in the USA.
Women, men, and the balance of power
In each of these cases, women have expressed their power differently than men. But why? Differences in neural connectivity and hormones combine to shape male and female power behaviors. Modern brain scanning reveals that neural connectivity in a female brain activates broadly across the left and right hemispheres as the brain analyzes the many facets of a problem. In contrast, male brain connectivity runs with equal intensity from front to back, focused inside of each hemisphere, but with little connection between the two sides of the brain, giving men a singular focus.
Neurochemically, women’s brains and bodies contain far greater quantities of oxytocin, the bonding hormone. For men, the quantities of testosterone are far higher. Under stress, men’s testosterone levels go up, and oxytocin goes down. In women, it’s the opposite; the stress response increases oxytocin.
Because of these combinations, women and men tend to have different takes on the world. Put simply: women create solutions; men fix problems. Women, by nature, are more inclined to connect, collaborate, and communicate. Men with higher testosterone tend to care more about their place in the pecking order.
To be clear, none of these responses are fully married to either sex. How we respond and react are unique to us, with our life experiences shaping these basic biological underpinnings. But we all know that women and men generally have very different ways of living in the world, based on millions of years of evolution. And, as we are experiencing with COVID-19, you cannot argue with Mother Nature.
Right now, a broad, collaborative, and connected perspective—one that sees the whole and isn’t about competition, ego, and turf wars — is exactly what’s required.
Our ‘new normal’ requires female ways of leading
Research shows that many pre-COVID-19 corporate cultures favored male-oriented brains, having been largely created by certain kinds of men for similar kinds of men. But in this new world of working remotely, female ways of leading are creating the space for neural diversity to speak up and find its voice.
Women who were often silent in big office meetings are speaking up online. So are the less-alpha men, along with introverts. Power and status symbols have been stripped away. Working from home is a great leveler and liberator, and it’s allowed female leadership to access the best of all the brains in the business.
COVID-19 has caused us to hit the pause button. To stop and think. Just like the impact of women coming into the workforce after World War II, we are experiencing the positive effects of a different kind of leadership at work. These coronavirus days are allowing female power to shine. There will be no going back, and the world will be better for it.
About the Author
Kate Lanz is the founder and CEO of Mindbridge, a UK-based global leadership company specializing in the power of modern neuroscience and releasing latent brain potential. She is the author of All the Brains in the Business: The Engendered Brain in the 21st Century Organisation. Learn more at mindbridge.co.uk.