Here I’ve got a question (I don’t know what it is) that someone recently that attended one of my seminars has sent me.

I’m going to open it, and see what they have to say, or what they’d like to find out about.

So this person has asked this question: As much as the world seems to want to say that men and women are the same these days, I don’t believe this. I see very different communication styles and attitudes in the work place for men versus women. As a woman, it has been extremely hard to get anywhere in the field I work in, banking. Which is still very male-dominated in management and executive roles. Do you think there’s a difference between men and women in the workplace, and how can a woman use her innate differences to get ahead and show her best at work?

Well, viewer, or person who attended my seminar, that’s a great question.

When I was in college I had a professor, and she was adamant that except for body parts, there were no differences between men and women. And we had a debate in class, and because she was the teacher she ended the debate when she thought she won.

I disagree. What we know now, 30 years later, is that there are definite differences between men and women, in brain formation, in almost every area.

If we look at the affect of estrogen and testosterone on brains, we see that it changes in the womb, in early childhood, in childhood, and in adulthood, the way that brain forms and develops. So there are, of course, differences between men and women.

Now how does it relate to work?

One of the problems that women have been told is, “It’s a man’s world. You gotta work like a man, act like a man.” And you know what? That doesn’t work for women. The women executives that I work with have over and over told me, “You know, when I tried to do that, they called me a name, and it starts with the letter B.” And I say, yeah. That’s because the things that people are teaching you to do to “act like a man, cuz it’s a man’s world” work for some men because they’re bullies. Ok.

There are lots of people in leadership positions in large organizations who are bullies. They’re not really leaders. And this is the distinction I make, which is, a bully is a powerful person who uses their power for their own benefit. A leader is a person who uses their power for the benefit of those who follow them.

So there are lots of people in positions of power in large organizations, banking, insurance…large corporations…who have gotten there because they’re bullies. And people put up with that. Now, they get ahead, but they’re really not leaders. So the women leaders I work with imitate that, they imitate that bully behavior…”you know I’m gonna step on the other person’s throat…I’m gonna get everything I want…I’m gonna, I’m gonna be forceful, I’m gonna be dominant.” And you know what, they get called another word that starts with B.

It doesn’t work. If you believe that women have only gotten power since 1968, you have a very inaccurate view of history. Women… you know that, that quote…”Well behaved women rarely make history” is full of bologna. Which means that we have to ignore Queen Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria, Catherine the Great, Marie Curie, Florence Nightingale, Molly Pitcher, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi…

Do you want me to go on? These are all “well-behaved” women who were very powerful, who changed the world.

It’s a very short view of history if you think women have only had positions of power since 1968. Now, you know…we don’t need to debate about suffrage and the problem there, I get it. I agree. But if we look at history we see that women have had power throughout history, but it’s feminine power. The unfortunate thing that women have been taught recently is that feminine power is not as strong or as powerful as masculine power.

Now if we look at how women get their way, it’s through nurturing power. They nurture the people around them. So when you see, when you see parents, fathers & mothers, you know, they interact with their kids more differently throughout. Moms want to protect, they want to nurture, they want to care. Dads they want to…”hey let ‘em get dirty, I don’t care.” And we all see this. And you’re going to say, aw you’re, you’re stuck in gender roles. No, I’m not stuck in gender roles. I’m just observing. I’m not prescribing the behavior. I’m just observing what we’ve seen for 10,000 years. And what we see is that men are more risk taking, they’re more interested in physical activity. Now, of course, of course there’s crossover. You’ve got the average man and the average woman, but the spread of women and men they cross each other. And so, so I’m not saying that you ought to be different. I’m just describing that they are different.

But if we look at how women who are powerful get their power, it’s not through force…that makes it no less powerful…it’s not through force, it’s through nurture. It’s through caring. They’re able to get the men and women who work for them to do anything they want, because these women helped them feel better about themselves. It isn’t about putting a hob-nail boot on somebody’s throat. That’s what bullies do. Ok. But when women nurture through their power, it’s through nurturing. It’s through soothing. And that’s every bit as powerful as masculine power.

Now, you may be in an organization that doesn’t honor that, that doesn’t support that, but that doesn’t mean that it’s any less powerful and real. You may need to find a different organization. And we’ve all been in organizations where you’ve got to go to the right school, wear the right tie. You know, you’ve got to wear the right clothes in order to have power. Well that’s really an artificial power. Real power, masculine power, feminine power, comes from who you are. Not trying to present some sort of executive presence. Which is, I think, ridiculous.

My favorite examples of people who didn’t present executive presence, but created a great company are Mr. Hewlett & Mr. Packard. You know, these guys created a great company, and they were nerds. They didn’t look like leaders, they didn’t wear the right tie, and they didn’t march into the room in a certain way. You know, that stuff is ridiculous. Now, it’ll get you a long way in a large organization that believes in that, but real leaders, people are attracted to you by who you are.

So if you’re a woman, be really cool with, you know, your femininity. Because that power can help you succeed if you’ll just believe that it’s a real power. The greatest threat to women succeeding in the world is not men. Because I work with primarily with smaller entrepreneurial organizations, they don’t care if you’re a man, woman, they don’t care the color of your skin. What they care about is, can you do the job, and are you a jerk? Because if you’re jerk they don’t want you.

In large organizations, maybe they don’t care as much about that, but the greatest threat to women succeeding is competition with other women. And so if you’re a woman and you want to succeed, help other women succeed. I think there are lots of men who want you to succeed. As I look at my mom who’s now in her 80s, she didn’t believe in herself, she didn’t believe that she could succeed, because she grew up in a rural environment, and she took a job as a secretary at State Farm in Bloomington, IL. She never thought college was part of her life, and there was a man there (her boss), my mom’s name is Carol, he said, “Carol, you’ve got a lot more game than this. I want you to go to college. You have potential.” So she went to college and turned out to be one of the valedictorians of her class. She was good at school. And she became a successful mother and homemaker, which is…people think, aahhh, you can’t do that.

I have a competent mom. I have a competent wife. I have a competent sister. I have a competent daughter. You can be competent. You can have power as a woman. It’s just being clear on who you are, and not trying to fit in some sort of cardboard cutout of what other people think leadership and power looks like.