Each time I clean our bathroom, in particular under the basin itself, I am reminded of an interesting conversation I had with one of my Business clients by the name of Keith.
I can’t remember exactly what point we were discussing at the time, but it was around the different prospective that women bring to the table of business management. Keith’s comment went something like,
‘Women are far better at cleaning that men are; when they clean the sink, they also clear underneath the basin of the sink. Men never think of cleaning under the basin itself. Women see things so differently sometimes than men do, and we are so much better for it.’
To be honest, I was quite struck by this comment, because prior to that point in time, I had never even thought about this in my role as mother, cleaner and all the other duties I do without giving much thought to them. But in my experience with men, I have to say that Keith is correct. I have never seen a man clean under the basin of the sink and would agree that it would be something I would think that women might think of, but not men.
Now before anyone gets the wrong impression, this was by no means a suggestion that women should stay in the kitchen or at home, quite the opposite. We were discussing business management and Keith was noting some of the things he appreciates about the way women see the world and what they might consider to be necessary or important in business that a man might not instinctively think about.
And before all you men who might well clean under the basin of the sink send me horrid comments, just bear with me a little longer.
In churning this thought over and over in my mind, many times as a result of cleaning the bathroom, I began to wonder, why this might be an instinctive approach or activity to an every day job for women and not for men.
It is true that women have historically taken on the role of domestic goddess for centuries and there are lots or reason for this, many of which we will not go into now, and that by carrying out such roles probably in itself brought with it a range of knowledge and experience not achieved necessarily in other areas.
I have noticed though, as I am sure many other women have when they might have argued with their male spouses about the smell of their shoes, is that in the main, women have a much keener sense of smell than men do.
This may be as a result of women having the main responsible of bringing up the children; identifying when they are messy and need cleaning and changing, etc. In addition it has been proven scientifically that men require stronger smells and tastes before they can really notice things. Men prefer sloppy kisses whilst women are equally moved by less sloppy kisses, anyway I digress. So if cleanliness were left entirely to men the home would be in a terrible condition before it would be noticed. And the point being that because of our sensitivity in the area of smell and mess, women cannot just ignore things, so are more prone to do something about it more quickly.
So this has given women a different prospective on the areas of the house that might well need to be cleaned, long before germs and bacteria run riot, and so that children and indeed the entire household remain safe. However, the responsibility for the overall management of the household and the family is and should be a joint one.
There are many other areas of life and the management of the home and family that women have and continue to excel in, these are not always recognised as management skills but most definitely are, and bring a different, important and necessary perspective to management and business.
For example, women have learnt to read the emotions, body language, motivation, mood and activities of others and can usually also identify ways to respond. An important series of skills that work to keep families together, make individual members feel valued and a part of the whole and to know that their individual needs will be responded to even if not entirely met.
Women are very skilled at bringing people together in groups and networks; identifying the strengths, skills and resources individuals have to share for the benefit of the whole and getting each to share these. When women are allowed to be themselves, and not necessarily always change their behaviour and responses to those of the opposite sex, they can bring their unique perspective to the benefit of the whole.
I am not saying that men are not capable of these things, but women, due to their view, what has been taught to them and have passed down from their mothers and to their children by them (particular to their female children), have practiced and taught skills that are even more necessary today, when the business world is in need of those who can hear and support the needs of the individual as well as the whole in order to create better businesses and society. Women are also good at passing on the sense of duty and responsibility to others; all absolute ‘must haves’ for any effective manager and leader.
In light of the latest CMI survey and report on gender and pay equality, I believe that we must encourage more women to take up positions at high levels in the business and corporate world. I feel that not to allow this different perspective to be shared at all levels in the work place is a huge and detrimental loss to society. Women’s perspective should be accepted and received as equal, valid and important to society and business. Not to do so is to ignore half of the skills that have made the human race successful.
So every time I clean my bathroom and in particular underneath the basin of the sink, I remember Keith’s comment. It reminds me that my approach, perspective and view on the world and management is very important and valid; it reassures me that there are many of my male counterparts that appreciate the different perspective and approach that we women bring the workplace and the world at large; and it reminds me that I have a responsibility to share all that I have to bring.
Thank you Keith, we need more like you.
I confess I winced a little at the cleaning analogy, as this risks perpetuating the idea that women are firstly domestic godesses (I’m not!) and only secondly interested in business.
I’m currently writing a management related book with four men, and we have had a number of interesting conversations about how each gender can offer something different to the management mix. Our conclusion was that there is a very real benefit to have people in the team with the traits generally associated with women, and that while these were usually found in the female members of team, that wasn’t always true. (They did conclude that I had these traits!)
My feeling is that we will have more success with a trait based approach than with saying you have to have more women in the team. As the culture becomes more woman-trait-friendly, more women will naturally rise to the higher roles, without it being seen as a ‘them v. us’ issue.
PS. Don’t forget too that not all women have families to take care of. I don’t.