Are Men and Women Really That Different in the Workplace?

The barriers which women face in a professional context mainly occur because women have different characteristics than men. This often leads to funnelling of women into certain kinds of roles, which means they are often not able to move up into higher paid positions as quickly as their male colleagues. However, men and women really aren’t that different and the qualities that each gender provides to a business are actually complementary to the overall success of an organisation.

For instance, a study on gender bias conducted by New York based Catalyst found that most women are team players and female leaders are more supportive and rewarding. Men, on the other hand, are found to be better at delegating and managing tasks. By combining these different qualities and personalities, as well as understanding the multiple strengths individuals can bring to the table, a business is more likely to thrive.

Keith Merron, a senior associate at Barbara Annis & Associates, said “Men are linear in thought processes and more narrow in their focus.” This quality, he explained, allows men to break down problems into ‘component parts’ and solve them much faster and easier.

Women often see a problem as a whole and they are able to come up with an understanding of a particular situation without having to break it down into smaller parts. Merron pointed out that this is a clear example of why businesses should observe gender balance in the workplace. “When it comes to problem solving,  particularly in business you need a balance of both perspectives,” he said.

Mustafa Ozbilgin, a researcher at Brunel University in the United Kingdom, said men and women are also similar in many respects. Jude Miller-Burke, PhD, an executive coach and owner of JAMB Consulting in Phoenix, USA, has a similar belief. These “striking” similarities, she explained, are often displayed by men and women in leadership roles. For instance, when tasked to lead people, both genders have a vision, motivate people to achieve that vision, and reward people for taking steps to achieve that vision. Both genders also believe that integrity, honesty, and confidence in their managerial skills, as well as having great communication skills and high self-esteem are essential to success.

Most men and women are not pushovers either. Based on a study conducted by Miller-Burke, on a scale of 1 to 7, both genders had an average score of over 5 points when it comes to arguing a point to conclusion. This shows that both men and women are not afraid to speak their mind and let their opinions be known if they believe that what they have to say is relevant and important.

What is different though is the behaviours of men and women in senior management and executive positions. If one party feels threatened they can adopt bullying behaviour to undermine the confidence of the other party. This is no longer about gender but more about the pursuit of power.

Another difference is the language men and women use in the workplace. Men often communicate by using sporting analogies. Women communicate by describing feelings.  Both parties can stop listening based on communication styles.

But no matter how different or similar men and women in the professional world are, many experts agree that these differences and similarities should not matter. A person’s gender should not be a hindrance to their success. Men and women can both contribute to the good of a business or organisation.

I would appreciate hearing about your experiences in business, particularly if you are in senior leadership roles.


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