COVID-19 Has Revealed What We Need More of in Business: The Female Brain

StrategyDriven Diversity and Inclusion Article | COVID-19 Has Revealed What We Need More of in Business: The Female BrainThe 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

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Kate LanzKate 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.

Understanding Neurodiversity: 4 Challenges Faced by Those on the Autism Spectrum

StrategyDriven Diversity and Inclusion Article |Autism|Understanding Neurodiversity: 4 Challenges Faced by Those on the Autism SpectrumAutism is not a condition that can be explained in one sentence. There are a lot of misunderstandings about the condition, with deep stereotypes being the root of the problem. If each person takes the time to understand autism, it can help lead to a healthier social environment. One way to do this is by championing neurodiverse workplaces in your area.

4. The Internet Is Overwhelming

There is a lot of misinformation on the internet about autism. The autism spectrum, in particular, has caught the attention of many pranksters, and it is used as a tongue in cheek joke when describing someone. A lot of the language used for autism is offensive when said in public. Due to the massive amount of information overload online, that boundary may not always be clear to people. When someone autistic is asked questions about their condition, it puts them on the spot. Sometimes these conversations can’t be controlled properly in a professional setting.

3. Social Awkwardness Gets Dialed Up

Everyone has a specific type of social interaction that they’re attuned to. There are even some people that can step outside of their comfort zone and blend in with any social situation. For someone on the autism spectrum, social interactions are never a guarantee. That means one meetup might be fine while another one is a complete disaster. Everyone has a social comfort zone, but for someone with autism, that zone is constantly moving.

2. Getting A Job Becomes A Job

Employers want to know that the job can be done with reasonable accommodation. The job market is full of employees that don’t suffer from autism. So why would an employer hire someone that needs special treatment? This is the mentality that someone with autism deals with whenever they go in for a job interview. No matter how capable they are for the position, it is always an uphill battle. Employers will expect more personal information from an autistic employee during the interview process.

1. Never Feeling Comfortable In Your Own Skin

Individuals on the autism spectrum have different physical and mental emotions every day. One always drives the other, so it is never the same feeling. What some may see as mood swings is a natural progression from one day to the next. People need a safe spot to unwind, or someone that understands who they are as a person. With the constant identity shuffling of someone with autism, this can be a challenge. Support groups are helpful, but it will fall on the personal curiosity of the public to create a healthy environment for autism. Understanding the condition is only the first part of respecting the person that has it.

Wrap Up

A healthy dose of respect should be included with all workplace atmospheres. Getting comfortable around people that are different is never easy, even when you prepare. Instead of expecting the worse, go in with a positive attitude. Even if it’s just one person that makes a difference, that is still a step in the right direction.

Diversity and Inclusion – Return on Investment, part 3: Employee Productivity Enhancement

Unseen millions are lost by companies every year; the result of employees withholding the full commitment of their physical, intellectual, and emotional contributions. Surveys conducted by the Gallup Organization identified an 18 percent difference in productivity between the best and worst performing companies.1 Yet, as we shall explain, even the best performing companies have room for improvement.


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Diversity and Inclusion – Return on Investment, part 1: Employee Turnover Reduction

The cost of employee turnover is staggering and yet goes largely unrecognized. There is no financial statement line item, no general ledger entry, and no budget explicitly set aside for this expense that can cost an evenly modestly sized company well over a million dollars each year. And a significant portion of voluntary attrition is directly related to the abusive work environment many employees indicate exists within the marketplace today. Thus, improvements in workplace civility can directly improve the organization’s bottom line.


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Exemplary Diversity and Inclusion Practices from a Culture-Driven Company

StrategyDriven Diversity and Inclusion Article | Bretton Putter | Culture Decks DecodedThe conversation about diversity and inclusion (D&I) has gathered a lot of momentum in the last few years, in the corporate world as well as in society more generally. Thinking about D&I is by and large no longer a tokenistic gesture. We have grown in understanding that we all have unconscious biases and that our companies and society as a whole benefit when we strive to support and empower under-represented groups. We have come to realize, too, that there’s a clear benefit when we utilize people’s skills, creativity and life experiences – particularly of those whose voices, skill sets or perspectives have historically been unheard or marginalized.

In many culture-driven companies, thinking and talking about diversity and inclusion is non-negotiable. Culture-driven leaders recognize the immense value that a diverse team brings. They think about diversity and inclusivity on a number of different levels, including ethnicity, age, nationality, gender, expertise and experience, personality type and neuro-diversity, to name a few.

By paying extremely close attention to making their culture a conscious, tangible asset, these companies are helping to set the precedent for what an exemplary D&I conversation and set of practices looks like. Leaders who want to create companies that thrive commercially while simultaneously supporting their people to thrive, too, can learn a lot from studying these companies.

In my new book, Culture Decks Decoded, I do just that. I review the slides of culture decks from a wide range of culture-driven companies in order to provide inspiring examples of best practice in terms of all aspects of company culture, including D&I. One of the most outstanding companies in this respect is Patreon, which addresses diversity and inclusion with a depth of thought that shows how genuinely important they consider it to be.

Patreon is a membership platform that provides tools for creators and creatives to run a subscription content service and build relationships with subscribers, and it places a very high value on D&I. The company’s overall mission is to fund what it calls “the creative class” — makers and creators from all walks of life. Their opening slide on D&I states that they work hard to fight the “unfair practices and trends” that they see in other tech companies. The following two slides go into comprehensive detail about all the things they are doing to build a diverse, inclusive environment.

Some of the exemplary practices in place at Patreon include:

  • Being direct about the language and messaging: The slide emphasises that there is no such thing as a “diverse person” or “diverse candidate” and clearly requests that Patreon employees do not use that language.
  • Informing employees that if someone slips up and uses improper language, as that person’s colleague, they are encouraged and even expected to provide direct yet kind feedback, given with compassion.
  • Making it clear that employees can and should learn about each other’s pronoun preferences via their Slack bios.Making all restrooms gender neutral at the Patreon offices.
  • Using a D&I census to collect data that report son fairness across areas such as compensation, promotions and other resources.
  • Offering trainings on unconscious bias, ally-ship and active listening skills.
  • Directing teams to set inclusivity-based objectives and key results (OKRs): the company is explicit about aiming to be “champions in this space.”

While not all of these practices are relevant or suitable to every company, the depth of thinking that went into creating them arguably is. The practices at Patreon have been developed with the aim of creating a truly inclusive workplace, and the final point is one that I would encourage leaders of organizations large and small to pay attention to: do not shy away from conversations about diversity and inclusion. As Patreon states, “Frequent discourse and debate are key to making progress.”


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Bretton Putter | Culture Decks DecodedBretton Putter is a leading expert on startup and high-growth company culture, consulting companies worldwide on how to leverage culture to prepare for and execute at a rapid scale. He is the author of Culture Decks Decoded and the forthcoming The Culture Gene: Leadership and Culture Development Lessons from High-Growth Companies. Connect with Brett on LinkedIn and learn more at culturegene.ai