by Susan Murphy, Ph.D.

It just happened again. Twice in 3 years studies have shown that when women are represented in significant numbers in key positions in Fortune 500 companies, financial performance is higher in some key areas.

In 2004, one study found much higher return on equity when more women held senior positions that when few did. In October 2007, similar results were found when the Board of Directors had more women than when Boards had few women. I think it has a lot to do with the ways that male and female brains can complement each other. This dawned on me last week as I was preparing for a panel on Innovation and Leadership at The International Alliance for Women (TIAW) Conference. Innovation is the new imperative for successful organizations, according to experts. And how we think can affect our ability to be innovative. Ruben Gur, a neuroscientist, has found that blood flow differs in male and female brains. When compared to the male brain, female brains have 15% greater blood flow, blood is more likely to go to both hemispheres, and blood flows upward to a greater degree to the 4 lobes for complex thought and relational processing. These are some reasons women seem to “process” and “think things out”. In males, more blood flows down to the brain stem area where the action-oriented “fight or flight” instinct is found. Plus, the bundle of nerves that connects the right and left hemispheres is 25% larger in women; this enables many women to multi-task using both sides of their brain while men often prefer doing one thing at a time. So, with men’s focused, goal-oriented ability to take an idea, focus on it and run with it; plus women’s complex thinking ability and talent for building relationships on teams, both men and women are important to an innovative team. The next time you want a high performing team, consider including a significant number of both men and women.