Gender differences in the workplace exist, but we don’t really talk about them. It’s a topic I hadn’t thought much about until recently. It came to mind while I was watching the movie Big Eyes at the theater with my wife. Gauging by her reaction, and mine too, I thought this might be a good blog topic.
The movie tells the story of American artist Margaret Keane, whose work was fraudulently claimed in the 1950s and 1960s by her then-husband, Walter Keane. Apparently, it was a time when women were not appreciated for their artistic painting talent.
During the movie and conversations since, I realized gender equality is still a sensitive topic, but it has been a non-issue at Marco. We have a track record of hiring people based on their qualifications, skills and team fit. And women occupy many leadership roles in our company. This naturally happened based on their talents and performance.
Men and women are different, but are certainly equal. Here’s a look at five ways gender differences affect leadership and the workplace. (Keep in mind these are generalized statements and not all inclusive).
- Conflict: In the workplace, I have seen women avoid conflict or disagreement more often than their male counterparts. That may be because of their desire “to keep the peace,” which can actually promote more diplomacy. Men are typically more direct (appropriately or not) and then move on. Whereas women can tend to go deeper and let it linger. Understanding these differences will help both genders collaborate toward better outcomes.
- Organization: Men tend to be less organized than women and usually aren’t the greatest planners. Women are master multi-taskers and have a high attention to detail. These traits are especially helpful in our company in areas such as strategic planning, training and communications. Sorry guys, women just seem more organized than we are.
- Emotion: Typically women tend to show more emotion and men seem to hide it. I think there’s a misconception that leaders need to be stoic. Certainly there are times when emotions cannot be worn on your sleeve as a leader. But generally, showing emotions appropriately is good for the workplace. We like to work with genuine people and women naturally come across more genuine in leadership. Not that leaders should make a habit of getting overly emotional, but having an emotional side trumps being too hard-core anytime.
- Confidence: Some women seem to be less self-assured than men and often even less confident than they should be. They have clearly demonstrated they have the skills. Perhaps they feel that if they act self-assured, they will be perceived different than men who do the same, and could come across as pushy. I don’t know for sure why confidence seems to come easier for men than women, but we should recognize this and use this as a personal development opportunity. Women often show more humility and graciousness as leaders – listening more and encouraging others to share their points of view. Knowing when and how much confidence to exude are key to effective leadership.
- Thinking: Women and men think differently and it takes both to make good decisions as a company. We rely on our female leaders for their common sense approach. They tend to think things through more thoroughly, and even sometimes overthink them. On the other hand, men seem to make decisions quicker, sometimes perhaps even knee-jerk. The collaboration of both styles is usually the most effective.
Men are no better than women and women are no better than men. We’re just different. We perform better together when we appreciate and understand each other’s perspectives.