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Monday, January 16, 2006

Women Running Countries: Giant ears vs. big mouths?

Women stepping up to run countries were in the news today.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a 67-year-old Harvard=trained economist, is being inaugurated as the president of Liberia, the first woman president in Africa. Michele Bachelet, a doctor and former political prisoner, was yesterday elected as Chile’s first woman president. German Chancellor Angela Merkel just finished a visit to the White House. And Finland’s first female president, Tarja Halonen yesterday failed to win enough votes to secure re-election, forcing a runoff against a conservative challenger.

Why is it that women are succeeding as CEO’s of countries, but not of businesses?

I believe it’s because people today are screaming to be heard and to be understood, and women use a conversational communications style that recognizes those voices.

Look no further than the online world for evidence of wanted to be heard and involved. An estimated 50,000 new blogs start every day. Millions share product reviews and recommendations online. Communities are thriving. MoveOn.org has changed political advocacy, making it easy for people to be heard and get involved.

Women‘s communications styles tend to be more engaging, involving, and conversational than men. Most men talk more than they listen, not recognizing other people’s voices. Women, it seems, may have the inside track on knowing how to genuinely connect with people.

In her fascinating book, “You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation,” Deborah Tannen explains that men are more comfortable using “report-talk” while women use “rapport-talk.”

“For most women the language of conversation is primarily a language of rapport: a way of establishing connections and negotiating relationships,” she writes. “For most men, talk is primarily a means to preserve independence and negotiate and maintain status in a hierarchical social order.”

In Alice Walker’s novel “The Temple of My Familiar,” the main character falls in love with a man because she sees in him “a giant ear.”

Maybe women are succeeding because they are giant ears, and people prefer to be led by big ears instead of big mouths.


Blogger Liberal Common Sense Asshat Nominee said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Lois Kelly said...

My hypothesis is that women are succeeding more than they did in the past/

The change is happening because organizatons recognize the value of leaders who listen to, empower and involve employees; discrimination barriers have come down (though not completely); and women's self-esteem is higher. (although there's still work to do.)

Generalizations are acceptable if they are intended to provoke discussion that helps build understanding. It's all about intention. My view is that as a society we need to debate more "sensitive issues" to better see others' views. More conversations, less spin.

Oh, and there is no typical male, not even you! Thanks for commenting.

9:16 AM  

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