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“Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.” (Charlotte Whitton, Canadian feminist and mayor of Ottawa)
What makes an excellent BA and are women more suited to the role?
Having originally written about this subject two years ago, I’ve found time to revisit the classic conundrum, “Do women make better business analysts?”
The response to my original blog was mixed as you’d expect. Comments ranged from “I can't accept such gender-specific suggestions”, to “Speaking as a female BA, I am probably slightly biased, however I feel that my attention to detail and good interpersonal skills definitely help projects run smoother.”
So has anything changed since I wrote the original article?
Well, let’s consider your organisation, specifically your BAs.
Think about how your organisation aligns with the above? Do you have more women in BA roles, if so why?
Multi tasking – a key skill for any BA. In these days of increasing workloads and assignment of Business Analysts to multiple projects and programmes, multi-tasking is essential to success. Do women have an advantage in this more complex world where work and personal lives collide?
Communication skills – not just the ability to outwardly communicate but to actively listen. Some studies have suggested that men are more likely to be action oriented listeners which means they focus on listening to information pertinent to the task at hand. Women can be more people-oriented listeners; they connect with the emotional message and undertones of a conversation. For me both are relevant in our world of complex and ever changing messages from our stakeholders. We must understand the tasks and actions required but sometime how our stakeholders communicate is as important as what they say.
Analysis skills – utilising a logical approach and additional alternative strategies to problem solving. Traditionally men have seen to be more logical, but I believe that this is now changing. More and more women are entering the traditionally male dominated world of science, analysis and engineering where logic, reasoning and analysis skills are paramount. In my BA world I regularly see BAs thinking about alternative approaches to traditional BA issues, bringing a new pragmatic view to old problems. Is this because there are more women in the role, possibly, or is that that the BA industry attracts candidates from all walks of life?
Stakeholder Management – the ability to lead and manage stakeholders to project success and ensuring that their needs are met. Probably one of the most challenging areas for any BA is ensuring not only are the stakeholders initially engaged, but that they remain committed and focussed throughout. It’s great to see that women are gaining far more presence in the Senior stakeholder arena and that BAs are being asked to contribute to those higher level discussions. Can women take up the helm of the BAs in this context; absolutely, but are they any better that their male colleagues, that’s for you to decide.
What scientific evidence is available to support the “Women are better BAs” debate? Definitive data is scarce, although a recent study showed that on average, men are more likely better at learning and performing a single task, whereas women have superior memory and social cognition skills, making them more equipped for multitasking. Unfortunately other surveys are divided in opinion.
If we look outside the boundaries of cognitive surveys, what else is there to support the theory? Well, IQ isn’t a factor there appears to be little difference between the genders.
Although it’s clear that although men and women’s brains may be wired differently there must be other factors that influence our abilities to analyse. Could this be due to social conditioning, such as parental expectations? Ask yourself “Do I expect different things from my son and daughter?” If the answer is “Yes”, ask yourself why.
So are women more suited to offering BA skills – from my experience I would have to say “Yes”. Recent evidence suggests that this could be the case, given that our two BAs of the Year 2015, BA of the Year 2014 and the first two successful Expert BA candidates are women. A straightforward conclusion or not? Over to you to decide.
My original blog provoked many interesting responses but for me, one comment sums it up... “It's an obviously inflammatory question and of course there is no single answer that will be satisfactory”.
Doesn’t that just sum up the work life of a BA?