by Peter Guber: In my experience, in the male-dominated entertainment world, women who I have hired, promoted or whose companies I’ve acquired
including Stacey Snider, currently Co-Chairman and CEO of DreamWorks, Amy Pascal currently Co-Chairman of Sony Pictures, Barrie Loeks, Co-Chairman Loews Theatre circuit and Cathy Schulman, Oscar winning producer of Crash and currently President of Mandalay Pictures, leveraged their female competitive advantage along with their unique talent and experiences to propel my enterprise and its goals.
This is not a manifesto to just hire women. What I’ve learned and benefited from is that talented women as leaders or as part of an executive management team bring a bouquet of skills and experiences that seeds the team for its greatest success.
Unlike the Industrial era that was shaped by a “male advantage” where strength, aggressiveness, territorialism and competitiveness were the key qualities that were valued and led to a male hierarchy, in today’s world, success is catalyzed by high degrees of Communication, Collaboration and Coordination– competencies in which women often excel.
Communication: In today’s horizontal organizations, clear communication that crosses functions, geographies, titles and generations is critical to galvanizing teams, influencing buy-in and executing strategies. This communication is not just about contact, but connection. And connection results from being emotionally attuned to others and adjusting your own communication based on both the verbal and non-verbal messages that you receive. This type of connection only happens when leadership is willing to listen and be curious, rather than just being critical of the opinions and viewpoints of others, has the strength to show vulnerability, is always authentic, and encourages the uncensored participation of others to maximally benefit from a diversity of input. This type of emotional intelligence combined with the recognition that in this digital world, state-of-the-heart technologies trump state-of-the-art technologies can give any organization an edge. In my experience, women are exceptional at orchestrating this symphony of communication.
Collaboration: You can’t build it alone. While creating a vision is best a solitary act, in today’s vastly more socially oriented and interconnected world, executing it requires collaboration. Collaboration is built on trust, energized through encouragement of healthy conflict rather than consensus, and is continuously strengthened through coaching and development of team members. Strong collaboration yields greater problem solving, innovation and commitment to goals and purpose. It makes the company far more nimble and puts an emphasis on process. Rather than engage in collaborative opportunities competitively as some men do, women more often foster the genuine collaboration required to generate the outcomes that drive true competitive advantage.
Coordination: With uncertain economic forecasts and the rapid rate of change, restructuring and downsizings are a constant part of the process and many leaders are forced to do more with less. Keeping all the “balls in the air” to deliver the expected results and meet or beat accelerated deadlines requires massive coordination and focused execution.
While there is debate as to whether women are wired to multitask better than men, there’s no doubt that women are forced to multitask more often than men. In addition to holding full time jobs, women’s responsibilities often encompass coordinating households, kids, pets and various other duties. Results based on scientific research on multitasking demonstrate that females are better able to reflect on a problem, while continuing to juggle their other commitments, than men are. Whether acquired or learned, coordinating and executing exponentially greater tasks is an asset that every hiring manager should covet.
So what’s the bottom line?
After all, business is all about the bottom line. According to a McKinsey report, companies with more women at the top had better financial returns compared to companies with zero women at the top. A Pepperdine University study which tracked the performance of 200 of the Fortune 500 companies (that provided gender breakdown of their executives) found the correlation between high-level female executives and business success to be not only consistent, but the better a company was at promoting women, the better it tended to rank in terms of profitability.
All this begs the question as to why it is that the percentages of women in CEO roles (3%) and women in senior executive spots (about 15%) have not moved for several years? Perhaps it’s because men are still largely responsible for hiring and promoting decisions and the institutionalization of precedent is so deep that it’s hard to dislodge. This gives companies who are willing to take their two eyes off their rear view mirror an opportunity to find great female talent to exponentially increase their odds for success.