What we can learn from gender differences in business transitions

Men and women can learn from each other in business transitions, making the process less scary and more productive.

According to the Bank of America’s 2014 Small Business Owner Report, there were some interesting differences reported between female entrepreneurs and their male counterparts.

When asked about their key character traits, 58 percent of women considered multi-tasking to be a strength, versus 40 percent of men.

Women were also 10 percent more likely to list creativity and 5 percent more likely to list empathy as key character traits for employees. On the other hand, 30 percent of men listed confidence as their strongest attribute, as opposed to 24 percent of women.

According to the findings, women are more likely to sacrifice time for themselves and their social lives for their businesses, whereas men are more likely to sacrifice time with spouses and children.

Given these findings, it is no surprise that women may look at a transition differently than men. And while only one in four companies today is owned by a woman, the number of female-owned firms is growing twice as fast as all businesses. This means millions of women are, or soon will be, in a transition from their companies.

Because many women might deal with complexity in their life roles — wife, mother, caregiver, employer or employee, church and community member, volunteer, etc. — they may see the time needed for a successful transition as more of a process, and one that takes intentionality and a willingness to start early, to successfully navigate.

As discussed in other articles written by Steve Coleman and myself, men will often delay or wait to start the transition process until an unexpected life event forces them to begin planning in crisis. Many women tend to start earlier because they see this phase in their life journey as important a process as when they started their business career.

Lessons for a meaningful transition

Yes, men are from Mars and women from Venus, but both live here on earth. Men and women can learn from each other in business transition. Here are a few lessons:

  • Men can learn that personal and professional change is not necessarily scary; planning a successful transition sooner rather than later is a wise move.
  • Women can learn how to simplify their transition process by setting simple goals, objectives and milestones — then trying to meet them.
  • Men and women can support each other by helping the other understand that transitioning from business ownership or career to “what’s next” requires courage, passion, core values, determination and commitment. These are gifts that, if properly shared across genders, will make transition both more exhilarating and meaningful.


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