Women in Management Could Prove Competitive Edge in Global Economy

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Attention male readers: Let's take a long look at this ``Mommy Track'' brouhaha. Pound through the line, where the rubber meets the road and put a full-court press on the issue.

Career flexibility is fine for second-class corporate citizens. But it won't land gals in the Fortune Business Hall of Fame next to Cyrus McCormick, or get them on the Fortune Toughest Bosses list (which most of us officially cluck at, while secretly admiring these macho neanderthals).

But, look out, boys. This may be the old Statue of Liberty play, the fake out of the century. I secretly suspect that we are dancing our last tango. None of the girls may sign our dance cards by the early 21st century.

Consider this column during the last year. I have been cataloging management's survival requirements for the 1990s: (1) the destruction of hierarchy, replaced with boundary-less, ambiguous networks of organizations; (2) empowerment, ownership, information - and power-sharing - in order to induce constant, fast-paced improvement by everyone on the payroll; (3) team-centered organizations, without cop-supervisors or functional specialists - where teammates manage relationships inside and outside the group and take wholesale responsibility for quality of product and work life; (4) adversarialism giving way to partnership with vendors, middlemen and customers; (5) life-long learning and development for every employee, starting with the receptionist; (6) an emphasis on life-long relationships with customers; (7) ``soft'' intangibles and service-added attributes dominating every product; and (8) constant change and fluidity as the norm and chief basis for competitive advantage.

Do you get it yet, fellas? Does this list have a hidden message for us? Try this: These eight, spanking-new survival traits for firms of any shape read like a portfolio of women's inclinations and natural talents.

Dr. Beverly A. Forbes, a lecturer in the School of Education at Seattle University and founder of SYNTHESIS - A Women's Leadership Program, recently presented the paper ``Theory F - Its Implications for Leadership Development'' at the Third Annual Leadership Development Workshop in Seattle. At one point she listed elements of the ``Theory F Style'' and contrasted them with ``a more masculine way'' of doing things.

For example, ``men's psychological make-up emphasizes individual ego ... intimacy and affiliation are more difficult for men.''

Strike one for managing in the 1990s.

Next, ``Women have been conditioned to put the needs of others first. They value relationships and connections ... ''

Strike two.

``Women form commitments differently than men. …