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Corporate culture – fit for purpose for women?

This post was published on LinkedIn in May 2016 after an event organised by WoW.

This was the provocative theme for a panel discussion on Wednesday 4th May on gender in the workplace organised by WoW.

Close on 100 assembled to hear keynote speaker Dr. Paul Brown (left in photo), a world-renowned neuroscientist, and the guest speakers Marie Moynihan (centre), Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President Global Talent with Dell and Niall O’Grady (right), then Commercial Director at Permanent TSB . Charley Stoney (2nd right) of Alternatives acted as facilitator while Clodagh Hughes (2nd left) of Motive8 opened proceedings with a brief scene setter.

“Corporate culture is the nut, the problem is how to crack it,” Clodagh said. “Is focusing on gender misguided? Would focusing on difference bring about better results for gender diversity? Do women lack confidence or do they lack fit?”

Valuing difference

Paul then summarised the functioning of the brain, our emotions which he described as “our energy for action” and the differences in male and female brains.

Organisations don’t know how to value the difference he said and rather than requiring women to be the best version of a man that they can be they need to build trust: “It’s the attachment emotions that we need to bring into business – love and trust. Organisations need to learn to trust. Women are better at that than men.”

“The most important single concept is that we are powered by an emotional brain and its job is to forge relationships and establish intelligent emotions,” Paul added. “A choir is a wonderful metaphor for what organisations should try to achieve, where every voice really matters.”

Gender bilingual

Marie said it is important to “be gender bilingual and to embrace difference” and to recognise the respective strengths and weaknesses of both genders. Males tend to be competitive but often have a “win at all costs” mentality. They are good at framing issues, but often miss key details. Females, on the other hand, are more collaborative but are slower to make decisions. Women prefer more context and detail but there is a risk of paralysis.

Both genders need to be conscious of taking things to extremes, she added. A “gender bilingual” organisation has the commitment of the CEO, uses data and success stories to drive change and has open and honest dialogue around differences.


Niall felt that from his experience there are three ways women behave in business. Some try to “out masculine men” but that is usually short term as this can result a “blow out”. The second group of women use femininity to their advantage and can be extremely successful at doing so. But the most successful in his experience is the third group, those who have a true sense of authenticity and a “giving leadership style”.

WoW would like to sincerely thank the event sponsor Zurich which hosted the event in the Zurich Blue Room in Lansdowne Rugby Club in Dublin 4.

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