Technology may be revolutionizing the world of work but digital know-how won’t drive business by itself – that’s the message from one senior leader who says one of the most valuable skills of the future will be focussed on people.
Speaking to an audience of 500 industry leaders, Bob Cancalosi – a top level director with multinational conglomerate General Electric – said gender intelligence will become the future leadership competency in the next 20 years.
Cancalosi’s comments came after he participated in targeted gender intelligence sessions, operated by the Gender Intelligence Group – an organization founded almost 30 years ago by global thought leader Barbara Annis.
Annis – who’s worked with the likes of General Motors, Xerox and even former British Prime Minister Tony Blair – says gender intelligence is the often overlooked counterpart to equality.
“Gender equality is about treating people the same and ensuring gender balance through quotas and the like but gender intelligence is about valuing the complimentary differences that men and women bring to innovative thinking, decision making, leadership and working in teams – among other things,” she explains.
“You can have great gender balance but zero gender intelligence,” she adds. “We work with a lot of leadership teams where they have women to fit into a male model of leadership versus really appreciating these tremendous differences men and women bring.”
Annis says there are a number of significant differences hardwired within male and female brains – although she admits around 20 per cent of people are exceptions to the rule.
“One of the differences that is particularly relevant for most companies – and people in general – is the corpus callosum,” says Annis. “It’s the part of our brains which connects the right hemisphere to the left hemisphere and it’s more connected in women.”
The difference means men and women often approach workplace problems differently.
“Men tend to converge on the problem, look at the pros and the cons, and women tend to use divergent thinking, how does that impact over here, over here and over here,” explains Annis.
“There’s much more web-like thinking and really looking at the context but that often gets dismissed in the workplace because men think it has nothing to do with the conversation or agenda at hand.”
According to Annis, leaders who have a knowledge of the hardwired differences will not only be able to better manage teams, they’ll be able to drive better results too.
“When you really understand some of the hardwiring and the complementary win-win strengths of men and women’s brains, companies have found that extremely powerful,” she says.
So why exactly is gender intelligence set to become increasingly important over the next 20 years?
“Well, first of all, women are graduating all over the world in greater numbers than men,” says Annis. “Women have been graduating in higher numbers since 1980 so if you want future talent you’ve got to figure out this gender intelligence.”