THE FEMALE ADVANTAGE: Women's Ways of Leadership by Sally Helgesen

THE FEMALE ADVANTAGE: Women's Ways of Leadership

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The author of Wildcatters: A Story of Texans, Money, and Oil now explores the management philosophies and styles of four successful female bosses in an attempt to define what women have to offer American business. Using a 1968 study of corporate management styles by management scientist Harry Mintzberg as her basis of comparison, Helgesen tries to prove that the sort of hierarchical, competitive, and ultimately alienating business world detailed by Mintzberg has crumbled over the past decade, thanks almost entirely to the increased presence of female managers. Encouraged from birth to empathize, communicate, and intuit, women are, Helgesen claims, better able to form a cohesive, web-like corporate structure in which communication flows in all directions, information is freely shared instead of hoarded, family and personal concerns are better integrated into the working environment, and the quality of the corporate product takes precedence over perks and status symbols awarded to those at the top. But Helgesen's insistence on attributing this change in style to the presence of women--rather than, say, to a general loosening up in business and in the nation as a whole since the early Sixties--weakens her argument considerably. In the end, however, the results are the same: companies benefit from a circular structure in many ways precluded by the old hierarchical one. Finally, what Helgesen celebrates is a return of the American entrepreneurial spirit--this time often engendered by women, who are among business' freshest members. Detailed descriptions of days in the lives of a national executive director of the Gift Scouts, the owner of a contracting business, a Ford Motor Company executive, and a black entrepreneur who built her own radio empire prove satisfying as blueprints for role modelling if not necessarily as archetypes for a better world. A bit weak in theory, but business people of both sexes may still find inspiration here.

Pub Date: May 29th, 1990
Publisher: Doubleday