Step aside men. Women are, once again, the new (old) powerhouses on the block. Every so often, mainstream media comes out with a slew of articles on how women are taking over the world and leaving helpless and hapless men in the dust. A recent cover story in Time magazine, "The Richer $ex," (March 26, 2012) told of how women will soon be the primary "breadwinners" in the United States.
This follows an article last year in The Atlantic touting "The End of Men," which suggested women's better attributes for today's economy (social intelligence, communication skills and focus) and men's poorer prospects would spell doom for the male of the species. The Economist piled on in a 1995 article about "The Male Dodo." Businessweek even described "The Perfect Husband" who cooks, cleans and raises the kids while his alpha wife is out slaying corporate dragons.
So what if all the currently overeducated women start taking over formerly male-dominated domains? Would that be so bad? Take the example of a corporation. My research of women-founded companies has shown some alluring differences from the typical male-founded and managed organizations. For starters, virtually every woman entrepreneur I've met practices active philanthropy. One woman CEO gives her employees several days off (with pay) each year so they can engage in some form of community building project. Another woman founder organizes book drives and beach cleanups where her entire staff participates. Several other company founders donate a percentage of their sales to local charities.
From a management perspective, women tend to prefer to operate in less hierarchical environments. Women typically want to share power with others, rather than lord it over others. Communication patterns are multidimensional and information flows up, down, sideways, backward and forward. Every woman-founded company I've seen holds "all hands on deck" meetings on a regular basis. The breadth of information disseminated at these meetings is open and all-encompassing -- from what new business is possibly coming in to profitability numbers on current projects.
Some of the most interesting differences I've found in women-designed organizations relates to the reward system. Women seem to have a unique sense of fairness. One female founder pays her people on an hourly basis, rather than a salary. Her reasoning is that since her employees are occasionally required to work more than 40 hours per week, she wanted them to be paid for all the hours they worked. Otherwise, on a salaried basis, every hour over 40 is money that goes into her pocket, not those of her employees.
Another woman who runs a talent placement service in the high-tech sector, decided to pay her employees 100 percent of the overtime hours she bills out to the client (rather than the standard practice of keeping a portion for her company). She feels it's bad enough that the engineers have to be away from their families, so they deserve the full benefit of the extra pay. But beyond that, each one of these women CEOs also offer frequent impromptu rewards, such as gift cards, public praise, dinners for two and other acts of kindness.
And finally, every woman entrepreneur I've studied places an enormous value on the culture of her organization. No surprise there, since the number one reason most women bail out of senior corporate jobs is to work in an environment that better reflects their own value system. In practice, that means hiring people for "fit" rather than just skills. Of course, most businesswomen would prefer both but the reality is; you can train the skills, but you can't give someone a personality transplant.
Perhaps, not surprisingly, the men who work for these women-designed organizations are also happy. Flextime, an open and fair appraisal and reward system, and a culture that values family time, camaraderie and teamwork are good for men too. So what kind of men will become dinosaurs in this new female-dominated business world? The command-and-control Mad Men of the past. Good riddance!
This post first appeared on Forbes.com.
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