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Women handle recessions better

If you are a woman, grappling with this recession and all the headaches and heartaches it can bring from losing your job to losing your house, author and businesswoman Roxanne Rivera says you are probably doing a better job coping with it than men.

Rivera, who co-founded a construction business in 1981 that grew to a $13 million company, is the author of “There’s No Crying in Business: How Women Can Succeed In Male-Dominated Industries.”

She has served on the National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics, on the board of directors for the University of New Mexico Construction Program Advisory Council and is now president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of New Mexico.

Starting in 2008, Rivera began interviewing about 50 women in academics, engineering, politics, mathematics and those in male-dominated organizations. She found some interesting patterns and conclusions.

“A lot of characteristics that females usually have, have helped them out in a down economy,” she said.

Women tend to lead by consensus and build relationships in the workplace, Rivera says. Women also have traditionally been underpaid and had to fight harder to overcome adversity in the workplace, developing better coping skills. All of that has made businesswomen tougher when dealing with stressful situations like a weak economy, she says.

“It has helped us be more resilient,” Rivera said. “Women tend to define themselves by their relationships, that is who they are and they often have a network of friends, people they can vent with.”

Realtor Sara Whisnant, with Leslie Wells Realty in Parrish, agrees.

She has a network of friends who support each other as they work through life-changing events such as divorce, losing a home and fighting health problems.

“I’ve noticed women are banding together, especially single women, who have time to devote to friendships and maintain contacts in the community,” Whisnant said. “My female friendships have been that much stronger because of what is going on.”

But she thinks the economy has driven everybody to look at their relationships.

“We are all in this together, you realize your relationships are important, you need to lose some of your competitiveness to forge relationships, which are more important,” Whisnant said.

Patty Harshbarger, owner of Computer Renaissance in Bradenton with her husband, Mike, has seen women succeed because of their natural networking abilities.

“Networking is becoming more and more important and women have developed that better than men. I think it’s in our personality,” she said.

Rivera agrees with Harshbarger’s assessment. “Personal relationships are key right now and women are good at that,” she said.

Working with her husband in building a business, Harshbarger has sometimes seen a role reversal.

“As a business owner, there are frustrations with personality conflicts, employees going through a tough time who need extra help. A good boss says what we need to do is work this out rather than throwing in the towel,” she said. “Ironically I see that in my husband, wanting to make things work and I’m going the other way. He sees the value of sticking with it.”

Sue Engelhart of Sue Engelhart & Associates in Sarasota, a public relations and marketing agency, says “women tend to soldier on and look for the solution whatever the circumstances.”

“Women tend to be aware of the possibilities and willing to find what’s productive,” she said. Engelhart also thinks women tend to be more optimistic and are able to keep a positive attitude.

Alina R. Mugford, president of The Translation Link, said she has seen women consistently stick together for support “in the good and the bad times” during her 30-year career.

And Dr. Inda Mowett, with The Aesthetic & Wellness Center in Manatee, says her network of businesswomen friends keep each other busy with cross referrals.

So if you are a woman, don’t follow the old axiom: You need to think and act like a man to get ahead, Rivera says.

“Realize that you bring unique traits to a job and be proud of them,” she said.