“Women upset everything. When you let them into your life, you find that the woman is driving at one thing and you’re driving at another.”
George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950) “Pygmalion” (1913)
I spent many years of my career climbing the proverbial ladder in Corporate America. I did what I think is typical of so many women who want to succeed in their careers and be promoted into leadership positions. I looked at who was above me, modeled them, was mentored by them, and got promoted by them. The only problem was that these were always men. I was constantly trying to act less than authentic myself and more like men, even if I would never admit this. Men were my only role models.
As a woman in business, I am always fascinated with the behavior between men and women in the work place. I read a book by Annis and Gray “Work with Me” in which they define eight blind spots between men and women in business.
As they state, “There is a conventional wisdom that women and men are no different from each other, have the same aspirations, and are expected to achieve their goals in the same fashion. This is precisely why we’re experiencing cultural breakdown today instead of the equality breakthrough we expected by now.”
As I do my work in many different organizations, I see that in chastising men for behaving as men, and trying to fix women to act less than themselves and more like men, we are perpetuating a cycle of miscommunication and misunderstanding.
We are not being authentic or honest to each other and more so, to ourselves.
Annis and Grey bring an objective (as much as one can be objective) viewpoint into gender intelligence. They find women are not as content in today’s workplace as men are and that women feel valued differently than men. Women feel dismissed for their ideas and excluded from events and opportunities for advancement.
On the other hand, men are generally comfortable in corporate cultures. Their blind spot is not being aware of how their behavior in this primarily male-designed environment affects women. Women’s blind spot is in assuming men’s behaviors are intentional.
In a gender survey by Barbara Annis & Associates they found some very interesting statistics:
- 82 percent of women say they feel some form of exclusion – whether in business social events and casual meetings, in conversations, or in receiving direct feedback.
- 92 percent of men don’t believe they’re excluding women.
- 79 percent of men feel they have to be careful and indirect when providing women critical and timely feedback.
- 82 percent of women say they want to receive direct feedback from men.
- 82 percent of women want to be recognized for their effort in achieving the results.
- 89 percent of men want to be recognized for their results.
- 72 percent of men state that women ask too many questions.
- 80 percent of women say they prefer to ask questions even when they know the answer.
- 95 percent of men and women consider truth to be the foundation of a working relationship.
- 92 percent of women say men earn their trust through caring and concern.
- 89 percent of men say women earn their trust by showing credibility and competence.
WOW! These are not small percentage differences in culture.
I don’t offer any magical formula to fix this. I just know this needs to change as it is causing a lot of stress and unmanageability in the workplace, which overflows into our personal lives.
What I do offer is that it doesn’t have to be one side ‘versus’ the other. There are many ways to find the common ground and bridge these gender differences. We simply need to understand where the other gender places his or her greatest value and importance, and why.