If you think that the human brain is complex, then hold on to your seat as I take you down the rabbit hole of the female brain…
You see, women and men are equally brilliant, but women are designed to use their brains...differently. However, for the last 80 or so years, there has been a shift in how women have used their brains. We went from house wife, raising kids and running the household to working full time, rising in managerial and leadership positions, in addition to our female dutiful roles.
Somewhere along the way we felt we needed to prove that we could do ALL that a man could do and MORE. We had to break the gender stereotypes that we were “too emotional” to lead and that we were not able to “keep up” with men when it comes to making decisions, math and other left brained activities.
So in essence, the female brain became…MASCULINIZED.
We began to think like them, act like them, as well as work harder and longer hours to prove our worth and that we deserved to get paid equally.
We went from using many of our right brains processes such as our emotions, intuition, and communication to thinking predominately with our limited, rational left brains thus shutting down what makes us uniquely women.
The female brain was designed for many things including leadership. But to be truly effective and to tap into our leadership super powers we must first stop “acting” like men. Because we are not. Instead women must reclaim and re-feminize their feminine brain power.
We know from neuroscience and brain imaging studies that the brain has plasticity. This means if our brains changed one way then we can rewire it back with focused thoughts and actions. But before I get in to the “how” (next article), let’s talk about the “why.”
Below are 5 reasons why the female brain is designed for leadership.
1. The Female brain is Built for Collaboration, Community and Seeking Help
Women overall use more of their right brain than men and have BIGGER emotional brains. Both of these regions allow for women to be highly intuitive, collaborative, empathetic and compassionate.
This becomes important when leaders see the need to expand their reach, merge missions and objectives, as well as enhance talents to bring about a greater outcome or vision for the organization. Communication is key to collaboration and asking for cooperation and help. This is a greater feature in women because of the enhanced language centers of the brain. This may be part of the reason men tend not to ask for directions. However, when it comes to making decisions and getting things done, asking for help or “directions” is crucial for companies and projects to get things accomplished in a timely manner.
One of the primary functions of leaders is to get things done.
Margaret Thatcher once said, “ If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.”
2. The Female Brain is Built For Judgement and Focus
The Prefrontal Cortex is the most advanced region of the brain and is located in the region right behind the eyes. This part of the brain is BIGGER in females than in males. It is responsible for making executive decisions, focus, self- control, forethought, judgment, organization, planning and impulse control. It also allows for us to learn from our mistakes. These characteristics are essential in running any program, team or organization effectively.
3. The Female Brain is Built To Read Others and Raise Organizational IQ
The ability to read others is partially based upon our emotional brain and mirror neurons (specialized brain cells). Mirror neurons allow us to respond and feel mentally what others are feeling. This region is more prominent in women and along with the larger prefrontal cortex allows women to be more empathetic, compassionate and responsive to others.
People in modern times are seeking leaders with these qualities. Furthermore, the ability to pick up signals from team members who may need attention or when a meeting needs to be redirected based upon the nonverbal communication, body language or shifts in tones can prove to be beneficial to staving off bad juju or vice versa, good juju?.
Women also tend to be more focused on the emotional cohesion of the people within groups and organization. This allows her to respond and connect to others in such a way that motivates and inspires them to help them to perform better. This leadership "super power" empowers the group overall, raising their social engagement and collective intelligence.
4. The Female Brain is HIGHLY Intuitive
Einstein once said, “ The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
Intuition is one of the true SUPER powers of women! The ability to know something without knowing how you know it! This is mental gold for companies who are looking to project future trends and to navigate decisions regarding the company as whole.
How do women do this?
The RIGHT brain is designed for intuition and we use it more than our male counterparts. It is a built-in survival system that has allowed us to be aware of danger and those things that will enhance our survival. The right brain is also thought to be “the seat of the emotional and spiritual worlds” according to Neuropsychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen, allowing us to have a sixth sense if you will. It allows us to pick on thought patterns and feelings of employees and team members allowing us to reach out before issues ensue.
Why have this gift?
The gift of intuition allowed women to ensure the survival of their offspring by enhancing responsiveness and the ability to pick up on unconscious stimuli, nonverbal cues, danger and emotions. In modern times this allows women to be highly intuitive leaders to be highly responsive and powerful detectors of situations that may affect the organization.
5. The Female Brain is Designed for Longevity
Women tend to worry a bit more than men. We are highly conscientious about our health and future. This is because women tend to have less of the brain molecule called serotonin than our male counterparts. In sufficient amounts, serotonin helps us to feel relaxed, optimistic and have an overall sense of well-being.
In a masculine world however, women have many worries of keeping up, dispelling stereotypes, and not feeling heard along with the others worries of womanhood. Worry may seem like a flaw but worry allows women be more aware of problems ahead or to seek out help to remove problems if needed. This is one reason why women tend to live longer because the worry will push them to do what it takes to stay healthy (like proper eating).
Because we are natural caregivers and emotional beings we extend worry and consciousness to those with whom we live or work. We want people to be healthy and to be taken care of which makes for healthier minds, relationships and a healthy organizational culture.
Furthermore, since the pre-frontal cortex tends to be larger in females, women are less likely to take questionable risks. This is because that part of the brain is responsible for regulating impulse control and making sound judgments. Toss in a little intuition or gut feelings and you have Leadership Gold!
6. BONUS!! Female Brains Are Designed To Admit and Solve Problems Faster and to See The Big Picture
Women tend to use more areas of their brain to solve problems versus men who use very localized regions of the brain to solve problems. Therefore, the female brain's ability to pull from a wider range of information while capitalizing on the relationships between them increases the number of possibilities for finding solutions.
The ability to see the BIG picture for an organization is crucial for leadership and a unique function of the right brain. Seeing the forest from the trees allows us to see the problems before they arise and to expand possibilities and conclusions. This is because the right brain has neurons that are further and deeper than the limited left brain which allows for more creativity andinsights.
In conclusion, it is time for women to go back to acting more like women. Because they are.
Although men are wonderful, we don’t need to act like them to be powerful and effective leaders. By continuing with our masculinized brain, women are suppressing those unique characteristics that make us feminine power houses. These are the innate female qualities that make us highly intuitive, creative, acutely aware and communicable. The more we act like men, the more our brains uses up energy to suppress our feminine brains. And we wonder why we are so EXHAUSTED!
So I challenge women to embrace their emotions, gut feelings and insights that seemingly come from out of nowhere, and use them to bring people together, to be more influential, and lead organizations to more possibilities.
I also challenge men in leadership to allow women the space to step back into their feminine power and support them on the journey. See them as your secret weapons to enhancing organizational IQ, cohesion, and as the prognosticators of future growth. I promise they will lead from a more powerful place.
Although men are wonderful, we don’t need to act like them to be powerful and effective leaders.
In the next article, I will describe “how” women can RE-engage their feminine brains to act more like...well...women.