By Christos Papoutsy
Founder and Publisher,
Hellenic Communication Service

"Integrated perspective" is a term referring to a particular school of thought in the business world, one that suggests that women conceive of their businesses as interconnected systems of relationships rather than as separate economic units in a social world -- the latter perspective, according to this school, belonging to men. These systems of relationships place the businesswoman at the center of a network that includes family and community as well as work. Thus is her business "integrated," and thus is success understood as a balance
achieved. Men are more likely to equate success with a high income and symbolic material goods. Individual goals being inevitably reflected in business goals, male-owned businesses are more likely to be profit-driven -- concerned with investment, growth, and market share -- and designed to "beat the competition." A combination of economic and non-economic goals is characteristic for women, who may prioritize quality, service, and customer satisfaction.

The fundamental difference between the more purely economic perspective of businessmen and the more integrated approach of businesswomen -- which is consistent with psychological and sociological work theorizing that women and men experience reality differently -- has many personal dimensions and practical ramifications. We can see the difference at work in goal-formulation, as indicated, as well as in decision-making, management style, and strategy. Men, for example, are more likely to follow traditional processes for decision-making in entrepreneurship, processes often originating at the top of a hierarchy -- with a president in charge and several levels of personnel below him who have decreasingly less power -- and based on rational decision models.

Women who own businesses, on the other hand, describe an "intuitive" and/or team-based approach to decision-making, within a looser, more informal business structure. Female business owners have noted, "women are more willing to allow people to be involved in decision-making." It follows that women tend to prefer a personalized and people-oriented management style; traditional male management style can be described as transactional, where the management conducts a series of transactions with subordinates -- an approach that at its extreme is sometimes referred to as "command and control."

For many businesswomen, even market strategy is not purely competitive; many seek cooperative linkages, instead of focusing solely on "winning." The traditional businessman's version of strategy involves determining internal strengths and weaknesses and matching them against external threats and opportunities; this determined independence is no doubt an extension of the impetus to become an entrepreneur, which for men is often a negative urge -- not to work for someone else. Women are often motivated to start their businesses by the desire for flexibility, to create an employment situation that allows them to balance work and home. When a woman starts or acquires a business, the new business relationships are "integrated" into her personal life.

It should be clear at this point that the businesswoman and the businessman each model an approach that yields results; each can learn from and apply the best of the other's style. As the English poet John Donne wrote, "No man is an island/ Entire of itself./ Every man is a piece of the continent,/ A part of the main." The market is the main, and those who are wise explore it in all directions.