Moreover, it seems that the recession may be highlighting female management strengths even more clearly. At the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year, the buzz was that if Lehman Brothers had included some sisters or if the top investment banks had had more senior women making decisions, perhaps the economic crisis might have been averted. New research shows that men are prone to risk taking, while women make more cautious decisions at work. A study in France found that companies with more women in management positions did better during 2008—had higher profits— than those with fewer women. Luxury brand Hermes was the only large company listed on the French stock exchange whose share price actually rose last year (by 16.8 percent), and the firm also happens to have the second-largest feminized management of companies listed in the exchange (55 percent). "Feminization of management seems to protect against financial crisis," says Michel Ferrary, professor of management at the CERAM Business School in France. "In conditions of high uncertainty, financial markets value companies that take fewer risks and are more stable."2
This good news in a bad economy can help you get what you want, even today. Remember: companies will always need key talent, but now they've got to get creative in figuring out how to retain and reward the employees they value, and, more than ever, they value women. You'll find you can ask for flexibility and new ways of working that might have been cold-shouldered last year. You'll discover once-dogmatic bosses suddenly channeling Bob Barker as they try to make deals. You'll soon understand what we've uncovered and what the smart managers already know: letting people work the way they want pays off. It increases productivity, saves on a host of infrastructure costs, and produces salary savings when employees are literally looking to work less. At a time when bonuses or raises might not be possible, handing out freedom instead not only makes loads of sense, it is also what many would prefer.
Above all, Womenomics is real, and realistic. It's literally news you can use to make your professional dreams come true. Most of us don't want to quit our careers or work the crazy hours it takes to be CEO. We're not fantasizing (much anyway) about being able to learn kickboxing in Japan or flamenco dancing in Argentina while conducting our work via laptop. Most of us like our roots and are committed to our families; we enjoy the comforts of home and the gratification of being respected for our accomplishments. Our core fantasies revolve around having emotionally richer and saner lives.
We are not alone; we just didn't realize it. We have the power to demand that companies adapt to us; we just didn't know it. We can negotiate for more of what we want; we just didn't know how to do it. With Womenomics you are in on the ground floor of this revolution. And when you have to put the book down keep it tucked in your trendy purse, your battered briefcase, or your cheese-stick-and-Cheerios-filled diaper bag. You'll find it empowering at the most unexpected moments.