Business

Last updated: 19 may, 2009 - 10:04 GMT

Peter Day's Comment

Does the Crisis need a Feminine Touch?

At first sight it seems a slightly extreme proposition : men got us into this current economic mess, maybe women can get us out of it.

But perhaps there is just a grain of truth in it: men with their gung ho, business-is-war-by-other-means mentality, putting up their defences (and their intelligence) against the real world, rewarding themselves with fat bonuses for super-short-term results.

Hang on a minute (you will be saying), that's how things are in business, take it or leave it. Women don't make that much difference to this red-in-tooth-and-claw world.

Well maybe they don't, but how do we know ? Where are the organisations run by women? Not many. How different are they ? We can only guess at the putative answer.

The other day, standing in the ruins of the Icelandic economy, I met two women who are very keen indeed on testing the proposition.


Halla Tomasdottir and Kristin Petursdottir and the founders of a new Icelandic investment company called Audur. Halla is Audur's Chairman, and that's what they call her; Kristen is CEO. The business was started two years ago, not long before the Icelandic economy blew up like a volcano.

Potential

Audur is an Icelandic woman's name, one of the great Vikings; it means wealth, happiness and clear space, which fits the intentions of the company.

The business was aimed mainly at woman clients, and backed by female investors, but men have caught on too. This is how Audur describes what they are trying to do : "Our company is founded by women with a vision to incorporate feminine values into the world of finance."

"We know women will represent a formidable financial force in the near future and we don't see current providers of financial services being focused on unlocking the potential value in women. This opportunity is simply too good to miss."

Audur seems to have survived its launch into very stormy waters indeed, and the two founders are modestly confident and not afraid of talking about the touchy business of men/women in business and what both sexes bring to the table.

The idea is that women can add various things to a board or an executive group to steady, inform and expand its antennae.

"Women," they say, "are risk aware..not risk averse. Men tend to be risk takers. Women tend to think more long term. They tend to think about the team, the group, not only themselves."

Convulsive

And that you cannot expect a few lone women representatives to do that on their own; women need at least two other females on the company board before they feel able to intervene in a "normal" way.

"A world with only women in it would be just as bad as a world with only men," argue the cofounders of Audur. "It's the balance we need."

Some people have really been saying that it's up to women to sort out the current financial mess created by the very masculine international banking world. It sounds to me like a trap that ambitious women might walk into, and by failing to cope with our current huge problems, set back the cause of women in business by another 50 years.

The Audur cofounders agree. "It's not the role of women to clean up the mess," they say. "It's so important that we have a system where women and men work together."

In the middle of a great convulsive crisis, these are important thoughts about a very important issue indeed. That they are coming out of Iceland at the moment is truly remarkable, but maybe also to be expected.

Out of great upheavals come small ideas that change the world.

Previous updates - May

  • An entrepreneur's thoughts on a way of weaning motorists off their reliance on oil.

  • The industry that changed the world – the US automobile business – is in deep trouble. Peter Day finds out why.

April

  • A look at the edges of Europe and asking whether joining the EU, or in the case of Iceland wanting to, was worth it?

  • A look at the edges of Europe and asking whether joining the EU, or in the case of Iceland wanting to, was worth it?

  • A look at the edges of Europe and asking whether joining the EU, or in the case of Iceland wanting to, was worth it?

March

  • Sydney Finkelstein, co-author of Think Again - Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How to Keep It From Happening to You.

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