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PINK Magazine: Wired for Winning

By Dr. Judy B. Rosener and Michelle Jordan

For generations, corporate America has rewarded workplace attributes more likely to be male: a linear approach to problem-solving; a tendency to ignore subliminal cues and intuition; an inclination to focus on one task at a time; and a top-down decision-making process. But when

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women are forced to adapt to that conventional mold, they're doing more than just playing a man's game. They're actually fighting against deep biological differences that could be used to their advantage.

That's according to a growing body of research about the brain and the initial application of that research to women's roles in business. It turns out that differences in hormones and how the female brain is wired may result in many of the workplace qualities that women – in contrast to the typical man – often exhibit: a holistic approach to decision-making and problem-solving; awareness of subtle body language; reliance on intuition; proven ability for multi-tasking; and a more inclusive management style.

As a 25-year veteran of the construction business, including a stint as CEO of Costain Homes, Julie Hill has seen the different styles firsthand. She recalls, for example, a week of intense meetings in 1991 at Costain, the U.S. subsidiary of a $2 billion British conglomerate, after the ouster of the American company's CEO. At the time, Hill was the only woman among the four vice presidents called to meet with the British parent's top brass.

"As the week went on, I found our three guys answering only the specific questions in their particular area of the business. Very linear," says Hill, today a board member for Wellpoint Inc., among others. "They were somewhat at a loss with the generalized questions gauged to measure our opinion of the health of the business as a whole. But I understood what they were asking." The British were so impressed with Hill, in fact, that two weeks later they asked her to be CEO.

Although scientists have studied human brains and hormones for decades, only recently have their findings caught the attention of big business. In the 1960s, Joseph Bogen, M.D., Philip Vogel, M.D., and Roger Sperry, Ph.D., first split a brain and observed how the two hemispheres work together and separately. They noticed that the corpus callosum, a bundle of fibers that connects the two hemispheres, is in most cases larger in women than men. It's believed that the larger size means there are more messages being transmitted between the two halves – the right hemisphere being associated with spatial attributes, the left with verbal attributes.

The corpus callosum is an information network that, in women, has more and different kinds of messages traveling in both directions, resulting in an increased ability to process many tasks at once. Men, on the other hand, tend to use the right hemisphere more, helping them focus on problems involving spatial components.

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