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Working Your "Feminine Mystique"

In the 1970s and '80s, women began to make real headway in the business world. The popular wisdom back then was that in order to succeed like men, women needed to look and act like men. Businesswomen chopped off their hair, dressed in boxy suits, and learned how to be authoritative and emotionless.

It’s time they learned how to leverage their distinctly female aptitudes. New brain research and gender studies reveal that women are naturally "wired" for career success. That is, they have unique attributes that can give them a significant advantage in the workplace.

In today's global marketplace, areas of female expertise--cooperation, collaboration, and communication--are especially valuable. Here are eight ways women can use their innately female traits to boost business success.

1. Tune in emotionally.  
Women are intuitive and empathetic, thanks in part to higher levels of hormones such as estrogen and oxytocin.  Use these strengths to be open and responsive to others' feelings and to build strong work relationships.

2.  Reach out.
The larger your network, the more career capital you'll acquire—great news for women, who are natural-born networkers and team builders. Make and keep friends. Ask others for help, ideas, and feedback. And continually grow your network of colleagues, advisors, and mentors. 

3. Communicate well.
Women routinely outscore men on oral and written tests because they use both left and right hemispheres of the brain to process verbal, visual, and emotional stimuli.  (Men tend to use only the left, "logical" side of the brain when verbalizing.) Ask great questions, listen carefully, and hone your business conversation and presentation skills. Become known as a master communicator, in both speaking and writing.

4. Be inclusive.
Choosing inclusion over exclusivity is an inherent female strength and a powerful advantage in today's diverse, globalized workplace. Commit to inviting as many perspectives as possible and extending goodwill to everyone—friends and foes. Cultivate strong alliances and be loyal.

5. Read between the lines.
MRI studies show that women are much better at picking up subtle emotional messages than men are. This makes them especially attuned to body language and allows them to detect unspoken signals of distress, confusion, or other emotions, such as frustration. Pay attention to what's going on behind the scenes. In meetings, for example, if you feel a topic hasn’t been adequately covered, initiate a follow-up phone conversation.

6.  Empower others.
Gender studies show that girls tend to work together, forming a kind of committee, in order to accomplish tasks. This inclusivity helps everyone in the group succeed. The highly collaborative style of females is increasingly valuable in today's interconnected global business environment. Lead in a way that doesn't seek to have power over others but empowers them instead. Create teams and a "personal board of directors" who can advise you—and be sure to include men. Give public credit to people when they contribute.

7. Be a big picture thinker.
Studies show that women tend to take in multiple perspectives and consider a wide range of tangential elements when solving a problem or coming to a decision.  Men's style of problem solving is different--more linear and more narrowly focused. Leverage your enhanced ability to be a big picture thinker so you can bring more creativity and innovation to your work.

8. Be likeable.
Women's gift for compassion, empathy, and intuition also makes them more likeable. Likeability is a key asset the workplace. Smile and be positive—as opposed to being serious and stern—and you will win everyone over and become more influential.

Your unique skills are what make you valuable to a company. Find out from top women executives how they reached their successes and how you can too with this free webcast.